With the help of my blogsister Joyce I initiated a facebook page for Contemplative Photography this week. I alerted all the Facebook friends I thought might be interested to see it, and watched with excitement as the likes poured in.
But I realized this morning that duplicating bits of my blog entries on Facebook is a bit of a mixed blessing. Those of you who read me here know me, choose to come here, know what to expect. For whatever reason I feel free to be fully myself on the blog; don't feel I need to have the prettiest photos or the wisest words.
But something in me doesn't feel as safe or as free on Facebook; feels I have to put my best foot forward; feels that Facebook posts have to be the equivalent of an elevator pitch: always brief, always compelling... and as I write this, I see that it's the perfectionist that's rearing her demanding head; the perfectionist with her digital approach to affection and appreciation -- by which I mean, it's either a yes or a no, and if there's anything wrong it's an automatic no.
Wow. It was less than a month ago that I found myself blogging about this, and here it is already, back again. But I think my awareness of it re-surfaced at least partly because of my reading in Soul Making this morning:
"One of the most damaging things about the popular view of love is that it requires being nice all the time... Being nice is closely allied, of course, to being liked. The two go together. If I'm not nice you won't like me, and if you don't like me then there is no chance of love springing up between us. This kind of reasoning breeds dishonesty because it means that "love" becomes a code word for avoiding confrontation or disagreement. True love requires a strict and accurate regard for truth. We live in an age that would prefer the smooth lie to the hard truth. The result is that we are very poor at honoring genuine feelings and hard-won convictions. In the name of caring for each other we often do everything we can to diffuse one another's passion. We are embarrassed by strong expressions of emotion."
This passage percolated in the background as I meditated, but at the same time I could see that however peaceful I endeavored to become, some part of me kept frantically turning back to this question: what picture shall I post on the blog today? I can't remember the last time I worried about that; I've always trusted that the right image would just emerge. It's even been a while since I've found myself obsessing about what I "should" write about here; again, mostly it just emerges, and I've learned to trust that.
But Jones' words about being nice, and being liked, clearly stirred up an awareness of that anxious drive within me, so what is that about? Looking back over the rest of this chapter, I see he also talks about society's preference for problem-solving over contemplation. "Our gritty society," he writes, quoting Carol Bly, "wants and therefore deliberately trains problem solvers, not mystics. We teach human beings to keep themselves conscious only of problems that can conceivably be solved. There must be no hopeless causes."
"Gigantic things," he goes on to say -- "questions about love, death, power and time" -- cannot be solved, and are therefore a threat to the ego. "But these are the questions that feed the soul. They do not confront us as problems to be solved, but as mysteries to be wondered at, or intractable darknesses to be raged at or endured."
Perhaps what's happening here is that the desire to be "liked" makes me reluctant to share my wrestling with the big questions? If I am seen to be honestly struggling with stuff others prefer not to think about instead of the small solvable problems of the world, then might I both threaten egos and undermine my own desired persona as a problem solver? Which then gets tangled with the frustration I feel when people who see me as an artist just assume I have no viable left brain, when in fact my left brain has been dominant most of my adult life.
So perhaps that's where this is going. Do I just share pretty pictures, the ones like this one that are easy to like, or do I admit to all the other less attractive aspects of life, drag out the challenges and place those on the table as well, so we get to examine the full range of existence?
I think that anxious self, the one that wrestles with these questions, is not unlike the twinges of pain I mentioned two days ago: it surfaces from time to time, and can lead me down the road to panic. But the disciplines of meditation, blogging, and faith work a bit like Pilates class, allowing me to understand that those "twinges of pain which used to feel terminal -- as in, Oh God, I've done something that may wreck my life -- can now be more realistically interpreted as, 'Ooh, there's a muscle that might need a little stretching.' "
Perhaps trust and faith are muscles, too, and these momentary lapses of confidence are just signs that they need a little stretching...