It’s been a while between posts which has been unfortunate as I do enjoy writing. While it will be some time yet before things settle down for me I’m taking a rare opportunity of quietude to not only let people know I am still around but also to give myself a chance to do something different from the current hectic and tiring routine of the past weeks.
In a previous post I wrote about life throwing us curved balls every now and then. Recently it seems like I’ve had a full innings of them. Attending funerals of friends, helping out my ageing in-laws, looking after my father who recently took a curved ball himself after 82 years of good health and, among other things, having to justify the existence of my team at work, in effect putting the careers of ten people in my hands. No pressure. But such is life and at least I can still say I have nothing to complain about.
In any case all of this has meant little time for myself. Little time to reflect, no time to write (twitter doesn’t count, right?), no time to get creative. But this will pass and I’ll be able to pick up my camera again, make photos more regularly and write about all the weird and wonderful things that pop into my head.
For now I will keep it simple and write about three things which find a commonality in the one thing that we all too often take for granted. Life.
Starting with death.
I attended my first funeral when I was young. I don’t recall exactly how young I was or who’s funeral it was but I have memories of everyone dressed in black and most people crying and sobbing, some almost uncontrollably. Over the years funerals have changed to the point that now people talk about celebrating a life rather than mourning a death. People, for the most part no longer dress in black and while there is still sadness and tears there is also smiles and laughter as people eulogise about the good times and share anecdotes and memories filled with love and happiness. Funerals are reminders that life is indeed short and that death is the only guarantee we get at birth. There will be good times, there will be bad times and there is no certainty that these will be fairly distributed and despite the occasional self-serving assurance from “self-help” gurus, there is probably little that we can do about it. Except, perhaps, for appreciating the wonder of life itself and being grateful for it. Starting each day with thoughts of gratitude may well be one of the best ways to make the most of life. Life is merely a bunch of moments. Moments of joy and pain and kindness and anger and rest and toil and clarity and confusion and courage and fear and they are all precious because each moment leads, sometimes gently, sometimes joltingly into the next. And it is these sorts of moments that make up the stories we hear in eulogies at funerals.
Moving on to limbo.
There is a question which occasionally gets discussed and which came up at one of the funerals I attended: Would it be better to know from birth how long each of our lives will be? Some say yes, some no and some are not sure. It’s an amusing question. “How long” is a variable for each of us. Death is the constant. On the rare and unfortunate occasion we may get an answer to “how long?” it is invariably… too short. And yet, even without knowing exactly how long, we all know with absolute certainty that our days are numbered. And yet, inexplicably, so many lives are lived in limbo, each precious moment passing by unnoticed because the mind continues to look ahead into a future that may never come. Or maybe we find ourselves arguing some totally unimportant point with those who are most important to us when instead we could just hold their hand and reach out with our heart in a quiet moment of appreciation. At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, this is why I am so grateful for and appreciative of photography. Photography, with practice and perhaps preferably without agenda, offers me an opportunity to tune into any given moment with such clarity and purposefulness that a sense of eternity replaces the burden placed on me by the concept of time. There is little point in searching for the meaning of life if in the process I fail to see the wonder of each passing moment. As the amount of time ahead of me becomes much less than the amount of time behind me, I have come to realise that life will hold little meaning unless it is lived, pure and simple. Lived with awareness and gratitude all the way through to my eventual and inescapable destiny.
And finally, this brings me to Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain).
Recently, amid the chaotic events that have occupied my time, I did manage to find the time to watch “Amelie” with my 16 year old son after he asked if I could get him the DVD. I was surprised by his choice but equally delighted as this movie is a joy to behold. It’s quirky in a way only the French can pull off but it is so rich in meaning and so full of nuance that just like a treasured book it can be viewed many times, each time offering something new. The cinematography in this movie (shot in the gorgeously photogenic city of Paris) is so beautifully done that it is mesmerising. Audrey Tautou is completely enchanting as Amelie and the plot which at first may seem a little perplexing is in fact deceptively simple. It is a story of people and relationships, of good times and bad times, of precious little moments all strung together by what appears to be coincidences but are in reality, miraculous little happenings which, when pulled together, gives us… well… Life of course, la vie en rose, la dolce vita.