The world is always moving and changing in a constant flood of events, as if there is a vast movie spooling forward from some cosmic film reel and being projected onto a limitless metaphysical screen. Because of the dynamism of everything, you might think, at first consideration, that actual movies of our lives, or our work, if we could have them made, might give us just the insight we need in order to be able to understand more deeply, and perform more excellently in whatever we do. Like sports teams studying game film, if we could just have something like a film of our work and life to review, we could perhaps gain tremendous insight that we otherwise lack.
But my movie would just show me for most of any given day at my desk, thinking. You might as well just take a photo. And this, I suspect, is at least one of the reasons why Ryan Seacrest has never pitched to me a reality show about my life. Who would watch an hour of me sitting still? But then again, compared to some of the shows currently running, it might not be the worst.
Would you like to be the star of your own movie, or TV show? Would watching yourself help you to understand your life better? I've learned something interesting. Photographs can be just as illuminating as film. And sometimes, even more so. My daughter, in her work, often makes slide shows from great photographs she's taken and then set to music, displaying the visuals over an appropriate soundtrack. When I watch such a show on my computer, each shot, each individual photograph, stays on the screen for three or four seconds, it seems, before another appears and lingers, and then moves on.
Each photograph captures a moment in time in a way that was impossible before this distinctive art developed. We live a fluid flow of moments eliding into each other in such a manner that we can't directly experience the freezing of any one moment for examination and reflection. We can't stop the ever flowing stream of life, except in photographs. And then, when we do, we can contemplate, for a time, what took place at a time. In other words, we can think through, over a period of time, a snapshot of one moment in time. We can notice things that might have passed unnoticed in the real spooling forth of the filmic procession that is our lives. We can ponder that moment and what it shows. We can take the time needed to reflect more deeply on a fleeting second that may have been lived through initially devoid of reflection.
A photograph can be misleading in many ways. But it can be revelatory in others. It can be an aperture into a new vision for ourselves and our lives. We have more pictures available to us now than ever before in modern times. But do we use them well? Do we squeeze out the insight or wisdom from them that may be there to be gained?
I suspect, for the most part, not. And maybe this is something we need to think about more. How could you really benefit from those selfies on your phone? Contemplate it. Consider them. Linger in reflection. Illumination may occur.