Several thousand words-worth of pictures

As much as I appreciate and enjoy having a good digital camera (thanks, Mom and Dad), anymore I don’t often have the itch to take pictures. Perhaps this is an overcompensation on my part, born out of the desire not to be one of those people who take near-real-time, frame-by-frame documentaries of their lives, such that one could make a flipbook out of the prints — but who prints photos these days, anyway? Also, I’m somewhat self-conscious of the fact that I don’t know much about photography, aside from the rule of thirds. So I don’t take very many pictures. Indeed, in college, after the frenzied, teenager-ish picture-snapping of the first two years, the number of pictures I took declined exponentially: I literally took about fifty pictures of my junior and senior years combined. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing; it does, however, force me to rely more on actual recollections when I chance to think about those years. I must fill the gaps between photos with whatever memory can provide me.

Anyway, I certainly hadn’t intended to wax philosophical about photography here. Nor am I qualified to do so — as I mentioned above, I have little training in the art of photography. Yet I can still recognize a good photograph. And I don’t think it’s terribly vain of me to say that I can recognize a good photograph of my own from time to time. These happen infrequently, but I think I’ve managed to capture a few precious persons, places and things in my time of snapping. Yes, all nouns. I photograph nouns. Things are good, I think, and far easier to capture with a camera than non-things. Auras, for example. Auras and penumbras — so bloody hard to photograph!

But I digress…

A professor of mine once delivered a veritable Jeremiad against the idea that life, or rather a particular life, is comprised of “experiences,” as it immediately presupposes a sort of haphazard fatalism which subsumes personal agency, at least in his mind. “There are no ‘experiences’!” he would say, raising a finger and opening both his eyes wide, “there are only persons interacting with other persons!” Life, then, in the estimable opinion of this man, does not, cannot, simply happen: it is made. It is created; it is not, as Aristotle claimed, suffered, i.e., undergone. Life is not a sequence of runnings-into of fixed natures with each other. And I speak here not of life qua biological phenomenon — if I were, then the foregoing would be a fairly apt description. No — one’s life, life, does not simply happen. Nothing happens. Everything is made, or done by someone, some person. This is not to say that there are no “givens” in life, but that life, or rather living, is not comprised of these givens, nor can it flow from them. Mere existence is so comprised, but to be a person is, by definition, to do more than simply exist: things exist; persons exist, and then some.

I don’t mean at all to downplay the importance of the givens. Bad givens can really ruin your day. For example, if someone were to hand you a grenade with the pin removed, that would be a bad given. You would want to turn it into a “thrown-far-away” very soon, or it would turn into a “killed-you.” But you certainly would not just want to experience it in all the glory and authenticity of it’s given-ness, though it would doubtless be a very authentic experience.

But there are good givens, too: sunshine, coffee and rain all come to mind, just to name a few. Also, scratching posts (if you’re a cat) and Valentine’s Day cards.

As for the former, there is little to say: yesterday I graduated from normal cat-owner to weird cat-owner, drawing perilously close to the next gradation, that of “cat-person.” Macavity is now the sole proprietor of a sweet cat-fort, which is a total eyesore, and by far the most prominent thing in my living room. It is so blue. Much bluer than I thought it would be from the description in the Craigslist ad. Anyway, I’m including some pictures of him interacting with that which has been given to him, in his best feline attempt at personhood.

As for the latter: as much as I disdain the Hallmarkification of Church feast-days, I appreciate the fact that vestiges of the original reasons for festivity often remain — in the case of (Saint) Valentine’s Day, gratuitous giving. I happen to have been given some pretty nice Valentine’s Day cards, and I’d like to show them off. But make no mistake: it is not the mere fact of their being given to me and received by me, i.e., not my mere possession of them, which makes these tokens precious (and they are precious: I will keep them forever); it is rather that they are just that: tokens, symbols, “non-representational representations (take that Plato!)”* of a bond of interaction — of communion, really — that I am blessed to have with these youngsters, one which began when I became their teacher, and which I hope never ends completely, though it will change when they leave the school. They are symbols of the ongoing giving and receiving, the tradition or “handing down” which is the beating heart of the education we strive to impart here. They are also, incidentally, somewhat hilarious in their own right.




* Same professor, Dr. Justin Jackson.

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“I claim this land for SPAIN!!”
“What grand things await me upon yon new ledge?”
“I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal!”
And I am proud to be the beast man teacher she ever met. Proud to be.
We just finished a unit on ebonics; she’s coming along nicely.
I did like the chili cook-off, actually.

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