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