Oblivion

Oblivion

Oblivion

Continuing from the previous post…

“There is nothing dreadful in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.” – Epicurus

The idea of oblivion, the thought that we will eventually be forgotten does not sit well with most people. That’s perfectly understandable. I get it. This is why when people find out that I don’t keep my photographic work, I get the usual questions along the lines of: Don’t you want to leave a legacy, something to be remembered by? You know, for posterity? My response is usually: Remembered for what purpose, by whom and for how long? I mean, posterity? Isn’t that oblivion’s other, more benign face, as Joyce Carol Oates once said.

The odds that life as we know it, that consciousness and self-awareness somehow happened by accident is too incredible to contemplate, perhaps even too agonising to accept. That our lives should have no point beyond our immediate circle of influence (which for most of us, would at best, extend into a very short period of time beyond our demise) can be a depressing thought. It is more comforting to think that there is a meaning to it all, a reason for our being here. The search for meaning is so common-place that it has become clichéd and yet the search continues, at least with some of us; usually those of us not too busy just trying to survive.

There are a few studies around which suggest that people with religion are generally happier. From what I can make of these studies, it doesn’t seem to matter what your religion is or for that matter what you believe in as long as you believe in something and that the something is something bigger than the sum of the parts. So the woman who told me that we all need to believe in something might have been onto… well, something.

For me however, religion is an impossibility of contradictions and absurdities to which I cannot subscribe. Having said that, I do understand the need for religion and I would not wish to argue the matter with anyone beyond a friendly exchange of ideas. We all do whatever we can to be happy and who am I to deny that from anyone?

So if oblivion awaits me in death, what meaning is there for me in life?

When I proclaimed to the woman in the previous post that Art was my religion, I did so tongue-in-cheek but there was more truth in it then I may have cared to admit at the time. I find a certain amount of amorphousness in art which is akin to the fluidity I find in life. Whereas a rock is a rock, an artwork of a rock will be different things to different people. Art is fluid in how it allows itself to be interpreted. Art will accommodate its audience in sometimes subtle and sometimes forceful ways but more importantly, art encourages its audience to see, to hear, to feel, even to taste. Art provides a looking glass through which the world can be observed as a reflection of our own story.

There are times while out making photographs when the onslaught on my senses can be almost overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if I am standing in a dirty back alley or on the edge of a seemingly endless ocean, the wonder is the same. It may seem strange to compare an alley to an ocean in this manner but the strangeness only exists if I am to judge and compare the scenes in terms of beauty or pleasantness. But by detaching myself from judgement I am left only with wonder at all the things that arouse my senses. All the things, which through some cosmic miracle came to be, as they are, as I witness them, me included; me, just one of the universe’s instrument of self awareness. Because that is my belief: the universe wants to be noticed.

If oblivion awaits me in death, then my life’s purpose is to notice the universe.

Every.

Bit.

Of it.

Of course, it’s just a belief, no less absurd than any of its religious counterparts.

Light on the rocks

Light on the rocks

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4 thoughts on “Oblivion

  1. As usual, Cedric, interesting thoughts and pretty much in line with what I believe/think. I don’t worry about oblivion – I don’t know if I’ll really be aware to experience it. For now, all that I believe is that I want to experience life to its fullest, whatever that means to me.

    I decided, years ago, that I didn’t need, nor want, the grand poobah in the sky who allegedly controls everything and keeps tabs on all of your rights and wrongs. Given the wide range of beliefs that there are and considering that each of them could be right, could be wrong, it’s just too much to deal with. I lean towards agnosticism, if I were to pick an “ism” – quite frankly, I just don’t know. It’s all very wonderful to think about and yet not be concerned about it. I think that I’ll just wink out of existence or perhaps be born of another body somewhere else without prior knowledge – recycled. Who knows! :)

    I can enjoy each and every drop of life without the need of believing in something bigger, higher, more powerful, all caring, all punishing, whatever. I realize, also, that I could be wrong and when I wake up dead, I’ll have a lot of questions to answer. LOL

    Great post and fantastic photos as well. Another thing, about legacy, I’ve been thinking about a post very similar to your statement. Maybe I’ll go ahead with it, if it gels.

  2. A husband joins his wife carrying their newborn into the recovery room.

    “Well? What is it?” She pleads. “A boy or a girl?”

    The man looks up from the baby and answers,

    “Yes.”

    ***

    What is the “life purpose” of a microphone? A video recorder? A cello’s bow? A man’s memory? Data can be arranged into information… information into communication. And knowledge?

    Hell, it is said, is an infinite accumulation of unconnected facts.

    Do facts have a purpose? Does understanding?

    Intelligence is an ability to integrate facts into meaning. Meaning’s relative. Meaning’s ephemeral. Try a metaphor… Intelligence lights up an area of time. The keener the intelligence, the greater the circle. Boundaries remain dark. The light moves, the light intensifies, dims, extinguishes.

    Meaning to the light is in what it illuminates. Records. Meaning exists as long as the light endures. Meaning is individually amassed, appreciated. Collective meaning is a legacy. Legacies are larger circles composed of many lights that ignite others after them. We call that culture. Culture trumps everything. Cultures are unique and obdurate. They are the sum of collective ideas. Just as a man is the sum of his ideas, so to is a culture the sum of its. They are tenaciously resistant to contradictions.

    People pass on. It is their collective role to absorb a culture and bequeath it. It is their drive to defend it. Cultures clash. There is no human culture only a mélange. As they clash, they war.

    Meaning is in preserving a legacy of that part of a culture an individual understands along with whatever capricious changes each new generation imagines. Of course that means internal generational culture clashes are as real as external cultural clashes. The meaning of life is in understanding then begetting tensions.

    Tension is the normal state of man and natural as the purpose of a microphone, a video recorder… or a lifespan.

    All of the “me’s” of the past are gone. The me of this instant has already gone, just as the you of this instant is now three words past. Eventually the string of “me’s” will “Phhhht” like a snuffed flame. Between this instant… and… this instant… and some instant many many words from here I’ll keep recording all the while resisting and passing forward tensions.

    And then… “Phhhht!”

    ***

    You wonder, “What’s life’s purpose? Oblivion or not?”

    The answer is…

    “Yes.”

    Meantime, before the Russians and Americans turn us all into radioactive rubble over say… the Crimea… I think i’ll fry up a bacon lettuce & tomato sandwich with mayo… Lots of mayo… Maybe on toast? Pass me a beer, K?

  3. I certainly love stopping by here Cedric, and this post is a great example. First of all, I absolutely love the images within it. Both of them speak to me as if I was having a conversation with the ocean, just like we are writing back and forth here. I guess I missed the part that you don’t keep your photographs in previous posts – well then what do you do with them? Delete them after a month? I will say, intentionally or not, by hosting your blog on wordpress.com, you have created somewhat of a legacy that will live on their servers I believe. I don’t know what their criteria is for deleting blogs of people that are no longer around. As mine is hosted on my own site, with my web host’s servers – it will disappear when the bills stop being paid.

    I also find myself with the words you write here. In reading them I realize I could probably never fully articulate them on my own. It is a sensitive topic for many, and many people immediately get defensive when alternative points of view are expressed on something so personal to who we are.

    I’ll take one of those BLT’s that Ted Byrne is serving up, minus the T, and hopefully we will not be the radioactive rubble. We are pretty good at destroying ourselves slowly, but can be just as good doing it quickly I guess.

  4. Pingback: I would leave some souvenir | Plop

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