Feeling A Bit Rustless   11 comments


A rusty old lock and chains on a farm in Pollocksville, North Carolina

Feeling A Bit Rustless

Why is there so much miscommunication these days? Why is it that the national and world mood seems to be one of contention and hatred? Why do we feel such a need to segregate one’s opinion from the opinions of others, and then argue about it? Is this our current form of entertainment? Is this what makes us feel alive and engaged? Or, is there a better way?

Okay, I’ll admit that my day isn’t off the best start ever, and I’m feeling a bit restless as a result. Maybe it’s this interminably long winter. Maybe it’s what I’m reading. When that happens, rather than ameliorate my feelings with beer or chocolate, tempting though that may be, I tend to turn directly toward the issue to discover what lies beneath in hopes of finding a better way to do things. This post, I think, is the result.

I was recently on the receiving end of someone’s projection. Not much fun. I floated an opinion out to the world — it was nothing at all consequential, and largely ignored, as it should have been — but someone projected their own feelings and assigned them to what I said. Though I tried to point this out, it apparently wasn’t received too well. I might’ve suspected; it’s not easy to look at your own schtuff.  Problem is, I consider this person a friend, so I find it rather unsettling and unfortunate.

I’ve been watching some news, lately, and I’m astonished by the vitriol and hypocrisy present in the national dialogue. Even though people are using the term, “A new era of civility,” it’s quickly followed by, “BUT…”  You don’t have to watch a ‘news’ channel for more than five minutes before you’ll hear something that sounds like, “We need to elevate the conversation, BUT… those people over there are Nazis.” In fact, that N-word has been used far too often lately, and it’s a very dangerous term, for the first step in creating an enemy is to dehumanize the opposition, and this is usually done by assigning a label, an epithet.  Look at any war: Each side has a particular derogatory term for people on the other side of the conflict. This makes it easy to think of them as something less than human, and we are thus able to kill them without much remorse.

My day took a further turn when I tuned in to two opposing articles on Digital Photography School. One disparaged the use of HDR techniques, invoking the term “evil” (as if an inanimate object could even be evil!)  These days, “evil” is a term that has been so misused to segregate ideologies and even entire countries from one another that we can’t help but consider it a charged term, one that is bound to invoke a reaction from someone. Why did Shrub use the term “Axis of Evil” except to generate a knee-jerk reaction and galvanize public opinion against those whose ideologies conflict with ours? Mind you, some of “those guys” won’t qualify for sainthood any time soon, but still, the term doesn’t usually invite measured dialogue.

The other article brought up some interesting points, and actually served to expand the conversation, in my opinion.  Problem is, the title even had the term “tired debate.”

When will we stop going ’round and ’round, shouting opinions as though they’re facts, all while not listening much to the other side?

I recognize that this can be difficult. As I noted under one of the articles, our very nature is dualistic. From birth, we are conditioned to separate one thing from another, making distinctions, and this is how our world functions. These letters and words you’re reading (hopefully) are different than the background of the page; that’s why you can even see them. Hot is not cold; up is not down; here is not there, and so on. From the start, we cleave our experience into parts, so that we can know one from an-other.

But, in a very real sense, we are all swimming in the same sea — The sea of our experience.  Though we create arbitrary boundaries based on preferences, opinions, ideologies, nationality, race and darned near anything else that comes to mind, each and their other are two sides of a single experience, with one complementing another, and so to kill or destroy one side for the sake of the other is folly at best, and impossible always. Duality doesn’t work that way. If you get rid of ‘hot’, you can’t know ‘cold’. If nothing is ‘up’, then there is no ‘down.’ For too long, we’ve lived with the notion that in order for us to succeed, someone or something else must fail in a zero-sum game.

I’d only ask: Where has this gotten us?

As I mentioned at the start, I always like to look for a better way, and will continue to do so. Even though some may consider my comments to be a hyperbolic reaction to simple discussions (okay, fine), if it informs me and tells me where to move next, then I consider it to be good.

Even though my cornflakes have been thoroughly ruined for the day, this line of thought has compelled me to look for new ways of approaching my own work, which is a form of communication, my conveyance of something ‘inside’ to the outside world. (There’s one of those darned dualities again!) You won’t find me arguing the merits of HDR against more standard photography, nor standard photography over black & white shooting, nor film or digital or tin-type, or whatever is next, being ‘better than’, ‘worse than’, or more or less ‘evil’ than another thing.   Art… is Art.   This is one ocean. There is only one, collective, shared experience, and we’re all taking part in it. The separation we feel is created only in our minds. Wherever possible, I’ll be looking for the things we have in common, rather than the things that are different between us. We all realize that “everyone is different”, so why would we feel a need to argue about it?

It’s only when we start discovering what we actually hold in common that we can get beyond our differences and live more peaceful lives.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear and share your input on this, so please do feel free to drop a comment.

My day’s looking up already for your being here. 🙂

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Posted January 22, 2011 by Rob Hanson Photography in philosophy

Tagged with , , , , , ,

11 responses to “Feeling A Bit Rustless

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  1. Great piece Rob. And by the way the image is not too bad either.
    This is something that continues to annoy me about some in the photography world. You’ve articulated this so well. Why can’t artists just be artists and leave each other alone? Well…because we’re people. And people have always, and will always judge other people no matter how many programs and calls for “civility” go out. I think the whole reason comes down to pride. Pride in what they do, how they do it and their perceived level of expertise. Sad really in a way because it’s the artists of the world who are supposed to be the example for peaceful coexistence. 😦

    Don’t let it get you down. Revel in what you do and ignore the naysayers. Because in the end it’s really their loss.
    Best regards, Tom

  2. Thank you, Tom.

    Just to be clear, it doesn’t get me down, although my day has certainly seemed unsettled. As I mentioned, I try to use these things to inform me of where to move next, so… there is an upside.

    I think that ‘pride’ is closely tied to ‘identity’, and you’re spot-on about it being the cause of incivility. When one’s pride/identity are threatened, they tend to lash out at whatever they perceive as ‘an-other.’ True, it’s human nature to do so, but perhaps we can hope to evolve past that point.

    Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it.

  3. It’s difficult to “float an opinion out to the world” and not think someone out there will question it. Famous line from Full Metal Jacket, “Opinions are like a*******, everyone’s got ’em.” That being said, when ever I share my take on something, my opinion, say…I realize not everyone may agree. You must know your audience and even then…you just never know. But I think floating an opinion is just begging someone to come over and sink it.

  4. Raul —

    Thanks for your comment.

    Saying, “But I think floating an opinion is just begging someone to come over and sink it” is the type of divisive language that I’m pointing to, the very thing that I’m railing against. There is too much of the mentality of “I believe so strongly in my opinion that yours must be negated at all costs.” That’s what I’m tired of hearing, and it’s everywhere around us today… the news, politics, articles, reality shows, blogs, and even replies.

    What do we have in common? I’ll start: What you and I seem to have in common is that when we put an opinion out there, not everyone will agree. I have no problem with that, and share that feeling with you.

    As I said above, “We realize that ‘everyone is different’, so why should we feel a need to argue about it?”

    I’d like to find out other things that we can agree on.

  5. om shanti shanti shanti
    om shanti shanti shanti
    om shanti shanti shanti


    Keep breathing Rob. Will write more later but the best response I can give is above.

  6. thank you Rob! Keep doing what you’re doing! Have a great day!

  7. Thanks, DJ!

    gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, bodhi svaha

  8. The internet is the ultimate enabler of passive aggressive behavior. Whatever you put out there is a target for people who have very little in the way of real human to human communication skills. I was annoyed by the “evil HDR” article and dismayed that several great photographers were sharing it. I clicked through to the “anti HDR” authors website and felt vindicated. My 5 year old nephew takes better pictures than him. Really.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rob!

  9. Pingback: Engtangled « Rob Hanson Photography Blog

  10. Good Lord, that’s well written! I really enjoyed reading this today, however I’m not personally convinced I’m smart enough to hang out with y’all. LOL 🙂

  11. Great article, Rob! Wow, I need to spend more time writing 😛 Problem is, I’m not that good at it. Oh yeah, your pic is great too! 😀

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