That urge to share

When I first started using my camera extensively -- as a sort of therapy after my mother died -- I spent most of my time wandering the beach and shooting pictures of driftwood.

I loved taking those pictures, and loved the results: they were like little Rorschach tests, and I had great fun naming them.  There are, in fact, three albums of driftwood pictures sitting in the bookshelves of my living room, all shot before I switched to a digital camera.

I still find the beach fascinating,  though my photography has branched out considerably since then.  We were invited to a party at a friend's house last weekend, and I shot this one on her beach, which is all rocks (mine is a sort of unattractive mix of pebbles, dark gray sand and shells, though I'm not complaining).  It's the first such image I've shot in a while, and I love it -- I just find the forms and colors and textures incredibly appealing.  But what would be the point of sharing it here?  Is there any chance you might like it, too?

There's a marvelous quote from film-maker Robert Bresson (sometimes referred to as the patron saint of cinema; apparently no relation to Henri Cartier-Bresson) that goes, “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”  Back in the day when signature quotes were commonly used in emails, this was mine: it felt like a mission at the time, to share the beauty I seemed to find in the ordinary stuff of life.

Thinking about this now, I realize I still seem driven to do that, just at maybe a different level.  But, actually, I think maybe all of us are driven to do that.  If you think about any two people in an argument, each one is probably trying to get the other to see what they don't seem to see: it's a common passion.  Each of us has his or her own unique perspective on life, and there are aspects of that which we feel are important to share -- so we write, or we paint, we blog or we tweet, we converse, we argue, we create music, we sit in meetings or participate in politics... This urge, to "make visible" -- whether we're drawing attention to ourselves or to our visions or to some issue we think is critical -- drives all kinds of behaviors, both good and bad -- and the entire profession of marketing.

Hmm.  I never looked at it that way before.  And now I wonder, with so many of us driven by a passion to share what we see -- who is it that's listening or watching or taking in or synthesizing all that's being shared?  When do we EVER stop sharing and just listen?  Or -- to take this to a more personal level -- if I'm willing to pay all this attention to rocks on a beach, why am I not spending more time learning from the attention others pay to the things that they have a gift for seeing.  Because I suspect it may be important for each of us to find a better balance between talking and listening; between sharing and learning...


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