Never lived in the Midwest before and so now find myself in Missouri. A place that has...wait for it...seasons! It's been a wonderful gift these last couple of weeks to see Spring manifest itself in the neighborhood around my office; photos on this page taken with my phone during my daily walk after lunch, processed with Instagram.
I've always encouraged friends to learn how to draw or photograph; drawing or looking through a viewfinder forces one to "see"; the mundane falls away and one can perceive shapes, compositions, colors that are always there but remain hidden if the senses aren't engaged creatively.
But it wasn't until I became a photojournalist for the newspapers that I learned the power of empathy in regards to creation. Being a staff photographer I had to come back from every assignment, (sometimes three or four a day), with something useable. Photos and videos that could absolutely be featured on the front page or on top of the website. This, (and the fact that stories were always human-focused, different from my time as an architectural photographer), forced me to develop an empathy I didn't know I had.
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wrote in his book the Divine Dance "When you see things contemplatively everything is a mirror." This is what photojournalism did for me, forced me to see the other as if looking in a mirror. A typical day might find myself photographing workers in a chile field at 5am, then a man in a courtroom arraigned for murder in the afternoon and finally the governor of the state giving a press conference in the evening. By the end of my time with the papers I was looking at people as if I saw my own reflection. This is what has led to in large part what I alluded to in yesterday's post - the desire to the leave the world in a "better" place.
What is that place?
Simply a world where we see others as ourselves. The idea being of course that if we do that then we afford others, we give to others, we love others as we would ourself.
I saw a wonderful example of this today doing a segment for the local ABC affiliate; a woman, Debbra Arndt, dedicates her life to growing vegetables for the destitute elderly in her community of O'Fallon, Missouri. I visited Debbra expecting that that was her passion, the growing of vegetables; but surprise, surprise she also paints, and is a photographer; she sees...and is making things better.
Let's begin shall we?
With a question, which is always a good, and perhaps necessary, start to any journey. The question is: can people change? If you find yourself a different person than you thought you were have you actually changed or just manifested a different aspect of yourself that you didn't know existed?
I ask as I find myself embarking on an unexpected journey of the self which I have no doubt will actualize itself into a physical change as well: a change of job, of place, (or more accurately a change of home...or even more accurately inhabiting a home for the first time).
Always in my oh-so-varied career when I've had the luxury of not just worrying about paying the rent the drive has been the creative challenge. But now I find that's not paramount. Now there is, (and believe me I'm as surprised by this as anyone), a drive, a drive, a drive to leave the world a better place than I found it. This is a result of many things: one being the shock of moving from the relatively traditional 'newsprint' world of the USA TODAY Network where at least I had some time to reflect on much of the work before 'publishing' and was allowed some measure of genuine editorial control where I could tell visual stories in a way where the structure of the work matched the content to now inhabiting the world of television news where the broadcast structure mandates, by its very nature, a terrifying shallowness and lack of reflection.
Regardless of the reasons the result is that I feel that I have changed, or what I need has changed. It's not enough to tell stories, or try to find beauty or even just make people laugh. These talents I have, as meagre as they are, must be put to some good use; and clearly I have a talent for the dramatic, if not the grandiose! :) But what is a blog for I ask you if not to muse, in a perhaps slightly pompous and roundabout way, about the changes in one's life and the grappling to find a way forward.
And so I embark on a new chapter. To find meaningful work and, hopefully, make the world just a bit better, (a definition of that, "the better", I think will be the subject of tomorrow's post),