For some people in our age, solitude can be luxury, and during intense activities with the mind or hand, deep emersion makes time irrelevant, at least for the few moments when we are totally focused. Good ideas seem to come with this solitary concentration, and there aren’t many precedents for limiting a good idea’s lifespan (death without documentation is the obvious one). It neither rots nor withers, but rebuilds upon itself with every new client.
In photographic images, the light arranges ideas on a flat surface, and makes territories that our minds can enter. When the image is good, we see it and we know it. We carry the memory of it. I believe with images that are memorable, we grow immeasurably, and sometimes get a small glimpse of the eternal.
Christopher Alexander, an architect and author of “The Timeless Way of Building” tried very hard to find an explanation for moments that are eternal. He was not trying to understand perfection, but rather those rare moments that generated harmonies in action, reaction and memory.
He fittingly describes a single experience:
I once saw a simple fishpond in a Japanese village that was eternal.
A farmer made it for his farm. The pond was a simple rectangle, about 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, opening off a little irrigation stream. At one end, a bush of flowers hung over the water. At the other end, under the water, was a circle of wood, its top perhaps 12 inches below the surface of the water. In the pond there were eight great ancient carp, each maybe 18 inches long, orange, gold, purple, and black: the oldest one had been there eighty years. The fish swam, slowly, slowly, in circles--often within the wooden circle. The whole world was in that pond. Every day the farmer sat by it for a few minutes. I was there only one day and I sat by it all afternoon. Even now, I cannot think of it without tears. Those ancient fish had been swimming, slowly, in that pond for eighty years. It was so true to the nature of the fish, and flowers, and the water, and the farmer, that it had sustained itself for all that time, endlessly repeating, always different. There is no degree of wholeness or reality that can be reached beyond that simple pond.
Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building
The message could not have been more clearly stated in trying to find an indelible sensation coupled with sudden understanding. The image painted in this passage becomes a meditation, while simultaneously functioning as a prayer…one that asks for nothing, but rather brings glorious augmentation to our levels of understanding.
Images and objects come along all the time, and occasionally give us a small glimpse of the eternal…
Child and reflection photographer unknown (larger image)
Victorian Family group photographer unknown (larger image)
Weber 2011 photograph by the author (larger image)
Jolly Gathering photographer unknown (larger image)
photos copyright © 2011 by Gary Justis