Tag Archives: Black and white photography

protagonist parting words: the gray scale

grayscale 2images

I am finishing up this week with what this month’s chapter writer Seth called “the Trinity” readings. My experiences through Seth’s suggestions have helped me develop some clarity and understanding of what kind of spiritual practices speak to me. I must say though in these mere 30 days in which I’ve scrutinized these topics, I feel as if I have only scratched the surface wandering down the endless paths that examining religion and/or spirituality can take you. And where am I now after this month of March? Well I am no closer to any specific truth, and I may actually be further away. Which is A-OK in my book.

In the search, between right and wrong, black and white, and good and evil, I have been finding large territories of gray landscapes, with unmarked highways, unnamed cities, and unspoken languages. But this does not deter me. On the contrary, it excites me.

Being a lover and maker of black and white photographs, I spent years of my life in a darkroom trying to re-create the correct balance of black and white and all that lies in between by using a machine that directs and times the quantity of light. (sounds strangely like many of our searches for truth no?) I never made the same picture twice and gave up searching for any kind of perfect balance. I was happier with making what I called art.  What I did find though in my darkroom explorations, is that no image is more beautiful and real than the ones that have a spectrum of gradations – a true white and a true black and the full gray-scale in between.

How does this metaphor translate to my beliefs at the end of this month on spirituality? Well, I believe that the shades of gray (what it is we don’t know or can not prove) are the most important arenas to explore and examine, even if we are not sure what we are looking at?  I can look outside of myself to a religious doctrine, a literary text, ancient manuscript or a scientific equation to prove what I believe to exist or to not exist. Or I can look within myself and observe my feelings, reactions, and instinct in my immediate environment to understand what I believe to exist at any given moment. Instead of trying to prove or disprove an existence of any God, I ‘d like to start by observing, accepting and being grateful for my existence and life itself.

My last reading of the month is “Silence”: the Lectures and Writings by John Cage. In a strange way I feel as though Cage’s writings are depicting the same thing as the Tao Te Ching but only in literary and musical metaphors. I found Cage’s lectures to be a repetitive description of the constant process of construction and deconstruction of what we as a society understand to be “true”. It’s a way in which we have all learned throughout history to understand our place in the world.

Remember Lao Tzu’s words?

“The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

Flip to any one of the 276 pages of free form verse and prose in John Cage’s writings on Silence and find the same sentiments re-worded in ways that could engage all or any one of us.  His words continuously question and dissect; they don’t define.

One of his thoughts that resonates with me greatly is the following:

“The activity of movement sound and light we believe, is expressive, but what it expresses is determined by each one of you – who is right… if he thinks he is. The novelty of our work derives therefore from our having moved away from simply private human concerns towards the worlds of nature and society of which all of us are a part. Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one get’s one’s mind and one’s desires out its way and lets it act of its own accord.”

Silence itself has been a reoccurring theme in my personal explorations into self-awareness and development. It is something that I would like to continue to return to and thank Seth for bringing it to my awareness in a new way this month. I believe that it is in the silence where the listening begins, not to other sounds or voices from the outside, but from the guidance that is held within us. It is there in the space that silence gives us where the process of construction and deconstruction occurs. It is what depicts and fills in the full gray-scale and brings our own truth to life.

But don’t listen to me. Find your own silence and your own truth. Where are you on the gray-scale?


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