The rain is coming down, hard and fast now. It looks like winter. And yet because it was late in coming, it took me by surprise. Went for a walk this morning, thinking that I would enjoy walking in the rain, dressed in a raincoat, and well bundled up underneath. But I suppose I wasn’t ready for it yet. Much more enjoyable to watch it from within the house, with the heater going So I came back earlier than I had intended.
Theoretically, I believe there is much to photograph in the rain, and I had taken a little camera with me… one that fits in my pocket, that I could take out at the right moment without drowning the camera. But I couldn’t find a single picture that appealed to me. And looking back, I have very few rainy scenes from all my years of photography. As time has passed, I’ve learned to sympathize with the thirsty earth… to want the rain to come… even, to feel a certain joy when the showers begin. Yet visually, I remain uninspired when it comes.
What’s unique about artistic inspiration is that it comes to you as if from outside yourslf. It helps you… it does part of the work. And as you move forward, as you begin to paint or write or photograph, the subject itself engages you in conversation. The images demand attention. The subjects of your stories have a will of their own. You could have planned a certain plot, and then find that one of the characters in your story just refuses to behave the way you wanted him to… or goes off and does something completely unexpected. Ah, how could that be, you ask. After all, you’re the master of his universe. You are god himself in this story you’re writing. But no, every subject has a will of his own, and if you try to bend the subject to your will, the subject will, in the end, seem flat and unconvincing. It is a lesson in life.
For in fact, all of life is that way. We want to believe otherwise. We delude ourselves into thinking we have much more control than we have. We try laying down rules to our cats and dogs, to the grass on our front lawn, to our husband or wife. We have so many rules. And sometimes the rules seem to work. Our environment seems to comply to the strict order of things. But there are undercurrents and echoes… there are whispers in the dark, and ghosts behind doors. The stricter the rules, the more the ghosts, the double meanings, the underground and the unexpected; the Freudian slip and the accident. There are those that see it all, and those that see only what they expected to see.. blind in their innocence until they are swallowed up by that sudden tsunami, or revolution, or volcanic explosion.
Go with the flow, say the eastern thinkers… everything is interconnected… accept and don’t try to control. But when we have reality fixed in our minds… when we are absolutely sure we know what’s right, we don’t seem able to internalize such ideas. It seems the more we’ve suffered, the more we want to control, thinking that we can avoid those things we can’t stand. Life can be a constant struggle, full of tension and challenges. And all of it, coming out of our own selves, just because we are not willing or not able to accept what’s going on around us. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can’t use self discipline to guide our own actions in this world. But the problem starts when we try to discipline those around us. And it’s not only those human beings around us… it can even be the dog or the grass…
I remember reading a Chinese proverb once, many years ago… to the effect that the teeth are hard, and yet the tongue outlasts them by far, because of its flexibility.