Friday, April 27, 2012

Morning Sun

Complexly wrapped up in his thoughts, Michael stepped off the curb in front of his office building and started walking. He thought of his job, his work-load, the man he had to meet in the courtyard, his upcoming plans for the weekend, his upcoming vacation, the plans he was working to put together for the summer, his search for a new home, and much more. Scurrying between each thought letting one iota lend to a subject change and then on and on, Michael felt exhaustion creep up his body. He wasn't about to let it get any further, however, as his mind had to stay sharp. Everything just meant too much to him.

As he stood next to a statue, he paused for a moment to breath in the crisp, clean air and gazed up at the sky. It was wonderfully blue with clusters of white, misshaped clouds and suddenly, everything began to fade. He commented to himself how peaceful things were at the very moment and thought about how he wished the weather would pause and stay the way it was. His tasks, his adventures, his worries all seemed to drown out in the wake of peaceful beauty that swept over. Despite it all, he remarked to himself from somewhere deep inside, "This is a good day."

Hoping he wouldn't lose the moment, Michael reached for his cell phone and snapped a few pictures. He was always one to stop and share moments like these with others not because they were badges of honor for him to wave around, but hopefully moments others can glean from and therefore find their own moment to escape binding monotony. In his heart, he knew it was all relative and when you get right down to it, his life was pretty good and he was enormously contented. The fury of each day's unrelenting waves of responsibilities really weren't that bad when he put things into perspective and for this one moment, he hoped others could feel the same way he did.

Morning Sun, by Edward Hopper (1882-1967), is the oil-on-canvas painting of a middle aged woman blankly staring out a window while the (aptly named) morning sun splashes her face and fills the room. It's a very simple piece using warm colors, subtle lines, medium brush strokes, brilliant use of shadowing, and wonderfully avoids complexity. The woman is scantily dressed yet void of any implied sexuality; she just seems to be lost in the moment, escaping her otherwise involute life for the sake of her well-being. Yet upon closer inspection, the one curious aspect about Hopper's work is the woman's blacked out eyes which seem to suggest she is feeling truly isolated both mentally and physically.

It is said that Hopper used his wife Josephine as the female subject in many of his works and in this particular one, I don't feel the audience even needs to know this. And despite having just shared it, think about how nice it is to have this nameless person gracing the center of this warm piece because she does not diminish the all too real feelings the rest of us experience. All of Hopper's work is conscious of this, as a matter of fact, which is partly the reason for his rise to fame in the 1920s.

And in this very moment, I can sense you are relating to the moment captured here and the very same feeling. You are thinking back to moments in your life where things became overwhelming and you too found something to stare at blankly getting lost in the purity of the moment. These are wonderful moments I know I cherish, and much like Hopper's paintings to the world, I try to take them and pass them along so others can be reminded that we all need them from time to time. For it is poetic and beautiful that hectic periods in life can be aesthetically escaped when nature and simplicity surround you. Embrace them all and do mankind a favor by sharing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert

So what's wrong with being different, unique? What's wrong with standing out in a crowd because you refuse to conform to ideals and stereotypes? Are you hurting others? Are you hurting yourself?

Are you genuinely you?

I won't profess to know the human psyche well enough to definitively say how we humans develop through adolescence and into adulthood, but from my observations, it typically goes something like this:  Innocence to curiosity; curiosity to exploration; exploration to decision. The process of becoming someone--something--isn't the same for anyone and can certainly take longer for a select few. For example, by the time I was 24, I thought I knew what I wanted. Relatively speaking, I was on the same track I'd later decide to continue to pursue but I had the wrong motivations and intentions. Life was topsy turvy for me 15 years ago and it was pretty evident I was unique and entirely different than the rest of my family. It wasn't intentional; it just was.

After settling back into what I felt was the correct path in life for me, I found out later I was wrong yet again. What I felt was a spiritual decision to venture in the direction I did was actually still very rooted in the same selfish purposes I had when I was in my young 20s. And by the time I hit my 30s, I was having to restart my life all over again. The emotional maturing and development I went through was supposed to have happened when I was 10 years younger, but for some reason, I stumbled into it later in life and to this day, I continue to develop. Frankly, I don't think I'll ever stop.

The paradox that is opened when choosing to take certain steps to define who we are is quite complex. To dumb it down a bit, we inevitably turn into dead-ends or open wastes that yield no direction. While we could be back on some other path headed towards success and satisfaction, we're instead trying not only to find a glimmer of hope, but ourselves. For the most part, we all wade our way through the difficult eras and then find our niche in life. Many will look back and regret the choices he or she made while others will admire the scars they endured and the experiences wrought along the way.

Ultimately and philosophically, we could then surmise that childhood is a beast, but only in hindsight. For me, the emotions I felt as a kid doing various kid things I cling to now with deep affection. Just the other day while I was on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, I had a moment where my chest started pounding with child-like excitement when we cruised through the cave of skeletons and treasure chests and gold and maps and cobwebs. I instantly relived dozens of moments from my youth and when we spat out the end of the ride, part of my soul was rejuvenated. I like it like that! Yet my heart hates that those years are gone and that I failed to develop in the same way many of my friends and siblings have. Where they are all married and doing family things, I'm about to hit 40 and am momentarily focused on developing my career because I really don't have much else to do.

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert, by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994)--a photographer and pioneering photojournalist--is the black and white image of three children on the streets of Paris. Capturing a moment like this isn't easy, especially when your subjects are three individual sets of random emotion and movement. Yet Doisneau has frozen time in such a way that with each child, we the audience are able to evolve our emotional response as our gaze moves from face to face.

Poignantly capturing the three basic phases of development, innocence, curiosity/exploration, and decision are mirrored in the respective looks and attitudes. In each child, we're able to recognize moments of our own lives during development and for those who are open-minded, the emotions of those moments can be felt once again. The small girl at the bottom center; such a cutie! She's completely mesmerized by the camera and moment and it's easy to tell that nothing else matters; she's completely Innocent. Right behind her and seemingly in charge of the youngest is Curiosity mugging for the lens while exuding her femininity. She's awkward yet signs of developing grace and ambition can be seen. And lastly, leaning against a police call-box, is Decision; he's cool, he's careless, he's not bothered nor interested in the moment. Oh, but he is ... he just refuses to accept it. Feigning his collection and suave appeal, he's at the ripe age of knowing it all and his choice to be who he is, is final. At least for now.

It's a simple image of three simple beings who have no clue what may lie in store for their lives in 10 or 20 years. Each one is rightfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of adulthood so in that, they are all three very similar. Yet each one is at a stage in life that will set the foundations for whom they become later on in life. It's saddening, evocative, exciting, and almost morbid all wrapped up together. But who are any of us to discourage the explorations of others except to intervene when eminent danger lie ahead? For the most part and much like our three children here, we're all average and miniscule in the sea of others who are at their own stage of becoming who they want to be, wish to be, and hope to be. It can get crowded and uncomfortable and at times, elbows can be thrown, but we're all in this together and thus capable of being supportive and encouraging. Focus not on the aspects of how others develop, but embrace your own recognizing the philosophical journey is one you are not alone in doing. In the end, you'll come to realize it's all about harmony and that each step forward is a success.