Listen with your eyes

My copy of Thomas Merton's translation of The Way of Chuang Tzu finally arrived this week.  It was pure heaven this morning, after two days of workshops on social thinking and the autism spectrum, to sink into its gentle prose.

"Tao is obscured," the master observes, "when men understand only one of a pair of opposites or concentrate only on a partial aspect of being... affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest."

... "The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials converge," he goes on to say.  "He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship.  Hence he sees the limitless possibilities of both 'Yes' and 'No.'  Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct intuition.  Therefore I said, 'Better to abandon disputation and seek the true light."

Here's the thing: I can insist to you that flowers one and three in this image are the right flowers: I can claim the light has clearly singled them out.  But in so doing I would be ignoring that the source of light lies, not within the flowers, but beyond the flowers, and that the light is always moving; that even 2 minutes from now these flowers might be sheathed in darkness, whether because the light has moved or a cloud has drifted overhead.

One of the gifts of photography is that we photographers have no choice but to -- as they mentioned in the workshop -- "listen with our eyes." And the first lesson we learn is that the light is always moving, always changing; that in a single instant all might change: the light might shift, the bird might fly away, the baby's smile might turn to tears, the colors of the sunset lose intensity and slowly fade to gray.

It's easier, then, to see that the bright conviction of yes might pale with time and drift to no; that on a foggy day the leaves, so quiet here, not a no, but a maybe, might glow with color, even shout -- "we'll still be here, all year, when the flowers are gone." 


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