Point of View

It was famed photographer Mario Tostino who I first heard define photography as “writing with light.” As my business is called Lightpost Communications and my blog here is called Lightpost, my chosen media for communicating have always been both prose and pictures. And so it was with delight that I came upon a thoughtful essay about photography the other day in the New York Times entitled “Through a Lens Sharply.”

Former magazine editor Dominique Browning, author of Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness, which I had read earlier, wrote the essay about her newfound love of photography and the renewed perspective of life it has given her. Incredibly, the well traveled writer had never owned a camera until a friend gave her a simple point-and-shoot model a couple of years ago and she hasn’t quit pointing and shooting it since. While I don’t ordinarily share excerpts at such length Browning’s musings are too beautiful not to speak for themselves.

As she writes, “My pictures are evidence that I was there, that I cared enough to pay attention, that I noticed, and honored, those tiny miracles of life we are all given, along whatever path we have chosen to travel. Now, when I travel, I feel a simultaneous quickening of desire, and a thickening of time. When I scroll back over the photo rolls in my computer, I study my idiosyncratic way of seeing, and I find something I think of as my own sense of time, my own rhythm of movement through the world. It is slow, and getting slower, more deliberate, more mindful of small beauties.”

My camera roll is…a way of collecting souvenirs, which, like any trinket, might be meaningful only to me. And so what? I can scroll back through time, because of my camera, and remember where I have been, what I saw, whom I was with—and this isn’t limited to what I captured in an image. Each image triggers associated recollections, and they roll alongside, hovering around each picture.”

No one sees the world the way you do. No one. If you fall in love with a photograph, it is often because of a glimpse of recognition, even a pang of desire, that things were or should be that way—or that someone came close to seeing what you saw. The photographs we take hold a place in our personal narratives, like bookmarks. We know what led up to that moment. And only we know what came next.” What a point of view.

Dispossess to Possess

At church yesterday the pastor suggested that we “dispossess to possess” our respective promised lands. According to the dictionary, dispossess means to “oust (a person, even oneself) from a dwelling or position.” And that describes exactly what my wife and I did a couple of years ago when we liquidated our house and furnishings to explore a more mobile lifestyle.

This conjures for me the image of a hand that cannot grasp something new until it lets go of the old. And it captures what I think is holding a lot of people back from realizing their dreams and possessing their promised lands. Many people talk about doing something special with their lives but hesitate to walk the talk because it means they’ll need to let go of what’s holding them back.

If there is one faulty belief that limits people from experiencing more of what they want it is the fallacy of “having it all.” If you are among the disillusioned, settle it once and for all: It is not attainable, or at least it is not sustainable. People may achieve some measure of it short-term, but it will eventually unravel over the long-term. The “goods” life does not necessarily equate with the good life.

It’s not that stuff is bad; it simply won’t satisfy your soul. Here is an example from my own life. I own several “i” products from Apple, including an iMac, an iPod, an iPhone and an iPad. As much as I enjoy using them to create and consume cool stuff they are not the “apple of my eye.” Naturally, that place is reserved for my wife, and supernaturally speaking, Jesus Christ has my heart.

Only when we keep things in their proper place can we prevent them from possessing us; and it is only then that we can enter our personal promised lands. Whatever it is that you aspire to attain in your life will likely require you to let go of the good in order to achieve the great. Remember: the adequate is archenemy of the excellent, and you will never regret letting go of the former to lay hold of the latter.

Living With Less

My mother-in-law died the other day and so we just returned from another round trip to Florida for her funeral and here to Tennessee for her burial. All of which has served to remind me of the relative brevity of life and our relationship with stuff during our lives. One poignant reminder came with my wife’s request for, and receipt of, her mother’s wedding ring. It was the only thing she asked for and her father and older sister graciously agreed to it.

While in Florida, my wife and I offered to help her father start the process of going through his wife’s belongings but he was not yet prepared to deal with it and we understood. The good news is that once the time comes there won’t be that much to process since my mother-in-law was not one for owning lots of stuff. For as long as I knew her [more than 27 years] she never cared much for accumulating the things of this world. Her focus was rather on the spiritual side of life and I admired that about her.

On the very day of my mother-in-law’s burial there appeared in The New York Times an op-ed by Graham Hill titled “Living With Less. A Lot Less.” and it really resonated with me, especially in light of recent events. As Hill stated, “Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.” Hill, a successful entrepreneur who happens to live in a 420-square-foot studio in New York, summarized: “My space is small. My life is big.”

I’ve never seen a trailer behind a hearse and life is brought into stark relief when you stare into a pit dug about six feet deep and truly realize that “you can’t take it with you.” During the funeral for my mother-in-law, my wife reminded us all to keep life in its proper perspective: “Live like today is your last; love like there is no tomorrow; and laugh like you have no sorrow.” Amen to that.

A Renewed Perspective

It has been said that we are each the sum total of all the people we’ve known, all the books we’ve read and all the places we’ve been. And I can’t help but think of how today’s social networking technology is helping us all broaden our respective spheres of influence.

Over the course of the past several days, I’ve spent time beefing up my online presence in each of these areas by connecting with professional colleagues through LinkedIn, posting about the interesting books I have read on Shelfari and listing favorite trips I have taken on TripAdvisor.

As a mobile professional, I particularly benefit from the renewed perspective gained by getting out of my home and interacting with people, reading publications and visiting places. For the purposes of thinking differently, there is simply no substitute for a change of place.

My location of choice today happens to be a café with a steady stream of clientele, an eclectic mix of music and online access to a wealth of information at my fingertips. But it is not so much information as inspiration that I am in search of as I write these words.

I am not sure what it is about leaving one’s usual surroundings that lends itself to creative output but I am thinking it has something to do with the change of pace as well as the change of place. Space and time tend to yield to those who slow down and savor life rather than seek to speed it up.

Attitude of Gratitude

I was trying to think of what to blog about today and then I was struck with an “attitude of gratitude.” It seems that just when I get to thinking about the trials I face I am reminded of how very good I’ve got it. For example, I was at my favorite café this morning thinking about some challenges I am facing and in walked a fellow regular who happens to be blind. Suffice it to say that my perspective was radically changed.

Speaking of challenges, I’ve got several friends who have placed their homes on the market in order to ease the burden of debt, reminding me that my challenges pale in comparison. My business may be experiencing a relative lull but my sister recently lost the job for which she moved to another part of the state a few years ago. She got a couple weeks severance pay and qualifies for unemployment benefits but it is small consolation.

My wife and I are among the millions of Americans without health insurance but we have been blessed with extraordinarily good health, we do what we can to take proper care of ourselves, and above all, we place our faith in God as the Chief Physician. Meanwhile, we attend church with others who are facing life and death struggles concerning their health and we are reminded to not only pray for them but to count our blessings also.