Is Life Worth Experiencing or Imitating?
As I sit at my desk, the room is darkening. I have put the flower petalled Tiffany shaded desk lamp on. Outside my window, the roof steps down and the sky is striated with magnificent hues of fuscia and lavender and periwinkle. The towering fir trees (Edgar and Emiline) are in black silhouette against this amazing colour display. I have come back to my desk to write about it before it is gone from my view into the twilight and this moment has passed forever.
When the sunset first caught my eye I jumped up and ran out onto the deck with my phone/camera. I wanted to capture this glorious image over the valley and distant forest so I could see it every time my phone rang, or I dialled a number. The first shot was pale but okay. I set it as wallpaper. But as I was accepting this diluted imitation, the sunset deepened into ever lovelier and richer hues of red, red-pink, red-purple, purple. This was no cradling orb of colour that held the setting sun – this radiance filled the whole – height and breadth – of the sky with exuberant, riotous, joyful drama in all the tones of passion! I quickly took another photo. It too was pale in comparison, but it too I saved to wallpaper. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get the real colour down. I kept fiddling with enhancers and brightness and cropping. And then the obvious inserted itself into my consciousness.
I was missing the grandeur of an ephemeral moment trying to stamp an impression onto eternity. An impression which could never capture the realness of life as it actually is. I was looking at glory itself through a puny lens. And in those two dimensions of height and width where would be my emotion? Would the photo ever again inspire me to the awe and reverence I felt in witness to Nature’s display?
I’m left feeling a little silly. But that’s okay, I’m now aware that I have been silly.
Artists and poets know that most of us miss the obvious. We interpret the world around us into products, onto film, into recognizable images. “Been there. Done that. Bought the TShirt’ captures that fact that we reduce most of life experience into a sound bite – a logo. The TShirt. The physical.
On the dance floor New Year’s Eve, the kids were having a ball – dancing, laughing, pausing, posing – CLICK! The New Year’s update to Facebook. Life imitating life! Are they really having fun or are they looking like they are having fun – or do they really know. Do they wait ’till they post their photos and get comments to ‘know’ they had a good time?
Are we all living in the lens of our own making? Are we becoming two dimensional. Sound bites and pixels?Is manic the same as happy? Does Viagra replace sensuality? Are 3D movies more ‘real’ than standing in the crowded parking lot after Avatar mesmerized by the stars – crystalline – in the clear frigid air? All I know for sure is that Life is by turns awesome and awe-full. It is the peaks and valleys and the times in between. The high notes and the bass notes and the hum in the middle range. I want to experience it all. I despair for those who try to live it tapping on the tips of the fence posts.
I’ve had a full spectrum life. Awesome seems now somewhat fleeting and awful seemed to take a while longer. But through the awful, I gained strength, courage, resiliency, humility and bravery. I became humble in the face of how resolutely life can sideswipe us. But that has made me verry appreciative of all that is awesome and fleeting. Some experiences are all the more beautiful, reverent and lovely because they are fleeting. Perhaps its okay that young people are photo-documenting their lives. Maybe it is their way of sifting and editing the dross – the unimportant. But I feel that this is not so. I think there is a script running and I question who is the author. Life imitating art – well not art, but media perhaps. Running to a script is not a singular act of youth, but of unconsciousness – at any age.
Here is where artists, poets, and musicians come in. Instead of depicting life in its exactitude, they capture the essence of Life, the language of colour, the nuance of words and the thrum of emotion. Art is Life. My image of the sunset on the back of my eyelids right now is faded. The photo at the top of the page (not mine) is representative of what I saw, but what I felt and still resonates within would best be expresses by a huge canvas with a Cadmium red spray across the expanse – overlaid by splatters of fuscia, worked into a daubing of purple blue – the suggestion of the sun gone beyond this day. Chiaroscuro. Light and dark – in all dimensions. That is Life worth living!
P.S. Over a year following the writing of this post the artist Linda Kemp joined our coterie. This painting “Shimmer” is one of hers and I realize describes exactly what I was trying to convey in these thoughts. It captures the moment in time when colour, pattern and texture moved like smoke, past the logical and accurate analysis of a sunset pictured and took it home to my heart. An inspired work of art continues to invoke the moment.