In some ways, photography could be on my bliss list every week. I’ve realized recently that I am at ease, in the “flow” as psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has identified it, when I have my camera. It challenges my brain and my creativity, combines artistic and technical skills. I learn something new, see something anew, every time I pick up the camera.
I decided at the beginning of the year that I would participate in the Photo Friday challenge each week and that I would not dismiss those weekly challenges that either didn’t interest me, or that seemed too difficult. What am I going to do with that? I’ve found myself thinking several times already this year. But, since I made the commitment to myself to participate, I’ve found that I usually don’t have to think too long before I figure out something that meets the challenge.
At the same time, I’ve been participating for the last few weeks in Liv Lane’s Friday “Follow your Bliss” blog hop. While photography is a blissful pursuit for me, at first glance it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this week’s Photo Friday Challenge, which would appear to be the opposite of bliss, to be something reflecting despair.
This week’s challenge, Inner City, was not one that seemed too difficult. Yet, it wasn’t something that I was that interested in doing. Why? Because I immediately thought of the cliché picture of urban blight: decaying, boarded buildings, broken windows, trash, poverty.
Years ago, a colleague from another city commented that there were no “bad” places in Indianapolis. I laughed. You just haven’t been in them. I replied. On another visit, with no intentions of sending him through slums, I gave him an alternate route to the airport because of road construction. On arriving in his office the next day, he called me. I believe you now. I wanted to lock my doors and get the hell out of there quickly. And I don’t think that it was really a short cut!” I didn’t find that route on the way to downtown to be that dangerous, but there were many blocks that were abandoned. That area has been revitalized in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas where the gritty inner city exists. It exists in every city. While I don’t want to diminish the hardships of poverty, or turn a blind eye, I just wasn’t in the mood this week to take a photograph for photography sake of what might be someone else’s bleak existence. After all, there is joy in the inner city too, sometimes in spite of hardship. Sometimes because of the joy that we have, or will, overcome such hardships.
Number 1 on my bliss list this week is remembering that this memorial is in my city, on the spot where Robert Kennedy gave a speech on the night Martin Luther King was assassinated, a speech credited with helping to prevent the riots that occurred elsewhere that night. It makes me happy that this memorial is in my city. I wish more people knew about it; I wish that fewer people would be hesitant to go because of where it is located, in the “inner” city.
UPDATED: Here is a link to a story about Robert Kennedy’s remarks on April 8, 1968, breaking the news of the King assassination. The link includes audio of Kennedy’s speech. The official name of the memorial is The Landmark For Peace Memorial. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about it.
Other things on my bliss list this week:
2. Finding the skeleton of a box turtle along the creek. It was fascinating to look at. I tried to find it again to take photos a few days later and could not locate it.
3. Realizing that the trees are starting to bud. It’s early — I think I saw some flurries earlier — but it still makes me happy.
4. Reading Jane Tomaine’s St. Benedict’s Toolbox monthly newsletter on reframing Lent with a spirit of joyfulness. Lent is one of those periods that I was taught to think of in terms of starkness, bleakness, or lamenting what miserable creatures we are. I always have problems with this. Her words reminded me not to beat myself up too much, during Lent or anytime. Thanks Jane. This message was repeated by my pastor when I went to Ash Wednesday services. I also saw a link to this website, Dark Cloth Diaries; Greg Miller takes pictures every year of people with ashes on their foreheads. Although most think that only Catholics do this, others participate in this ancient ritual as well. I think Miller captures this tradition beautifully. Scroll down on Jane’s website to the link for the feature article in this month’s newsletter to read about reframing Lent.