Sight is an incredible privilege. And also, if permitted, a formidable limitation. In a world so dominated by the limits of what the eye can see, it’s easy to lose sight (sorry) of the wonders of the other senses. I mean, some of us are actually willing to let delightfully delicious poached eggs on avocado toast go cold just to capture them on our phone screens looking their perkiest and #50shadesofhollondaise. The power of sight indulges our need for immediacy, for peacocking, for judgement, for validation, for confirmation (of an existence, be it our own or otherwise). I’d like to challenge the notion that a picture says a thousand words. There’s a hidden caveat- a picture only says a thousand words because it taps into other experiences formulated by the collective of all the senses working in harmony.
Take a sunset for example. It’s stunning. The explosive beauty in the colour of the sky, the majesty in the waves as they roll in, the white foam they leave behind as an even greater force pulls them back, the ripples at the edge of the water, the sand clinging on to its last few moments to shine as it’s swallowed by liquid diamonds. A good photographer can probably capture a lot of that. But what of the feeling as your toes graze the slowly cooling sand, tiny little embodiments of the power of time. The touch of the breeze as it pushes away the drops of seawater clinging onto your skin. The salty kiss the ocean left behind on your lips. The call of a lone seagull begging the sun for an encore. The familiar sound of water lapping at the shore, seducing you all over again. The smell of the sea triggering memories of sandcastles and low tide adventures, of ice cream sandwiches and family vacations. The feelings evoked by all of these are what make the sunset so magnificent. So ephemerally eternal.
So when you look at that photograph of the sunset, the thousand words being screamed at you are a chorus of your senses tapping into those feelings. But as we move further away from feeling what we see to simply displaying empty representations of it for the sake of an “audience,” we not only create insipid experiences, but we also limit our capacity to go beyond the readily visible. The sunset ends up playing the same role a green screen could instead of serving as a giant hug from the universe, reminding you that we’re all connected. This limitation hastens our judgement too by zeroing in on the superficial and overvaluing the #pictureperfect.
My challenge to myself then for this first month of 2016 is to pay a little more attention to my surroundings and see beyond the limits of my vision (which in my case is currently experiencing some setbacks anyway, you beautifully blurry babes). This will be my only use of “babes.” Savour it. It’s for alliterative purposes.