Random Acts of Beauty
July 13, 2014 - 8:21am
Albert Einstein once was asked to name the most important question science could study. His reply: "Is the Universe friendly?" Considering the question, I realize just how much rides on how I answer it.
If I choose to believe that the Universe is unfriendly, then it becomes my adversary⎯ something to be confronted, outwitted, controlled. Nature becomes a hostile environment, separate from me and from all human beings, who then have the right to use and even exploit nature. In an unfriendly Universe, the purpose of human society is to provide orderliness, protection and predictability for its members. To do this requires structure, property rights, laws, enforcement agencies, and a central hierarchy of authority.
On the other hand, if I choose to see the Universe as friendly, then it is there to be accepted, experienced, and celebrated. If I perceive nature as an evolving ecosystem of which we are all a part, then by enhancing nature I enhance myself and my world. In a friendly Universe, the purpose of human society is to serve its members in an environment that supports and encourages self-responsibility.
My experience brings me firmly down on the side of a friendly Universe. It’s not a vision that denies the world's pain and suffering, but rather one that accepts it and then looks beyond it to the love, joy and wonder that, for me at least, seem to exist in far greater quantities.
So, in deference to Thoreau, I’ve taken up my own form of civil disobedience. I counter senseless acts of violence with senseless acts of beauty. Perhaps by tenaciously showing people the loveliness of the world, I’ll get them to concede that it's really there.
Walking the other day, I passed a shell ginger plant. It’s glorious flower in the soft morning light. I hadn't gone out to photograph it. It wasn't waiting for me either. It was just there, putting its beauty out to the world with no concern whether anyone would see it or not.
I did see it, however. I took out my camera, peered through the lens, and clicked the shutter. And with that click, the ginger flower, the light, the camera and I conspired to produce yet another random act of beauty.
I post it now for the world. "See! Even here on my walk. 'Beauty is all around you', as the Navajo poem says. You can't deny it."
The photo shines here on my blog. Perhaps is will offer a little light to some reader (as the experience itself did to me); perhaps not.
No matter. I'm committed to the cause. As are hundred of others - rocks and clouds and ginger plants and people. Everything, I guess, seen in the right light; in the right vision.
So the next time you're out photographing, take the time to create in a few random acts of beauty. Post them on the Celebrate Facebook page. Join me on the barricades of positive civil disobedience. I'll be waiting.