One of the many leitmotifs of my days is that readers send me tips about all sorts of things, and, not infrequently, every one or two days maybe, I'll get an excited message saying, in effect, "look at this! Isn't this cool? I know you'll be interested in this!" And it will be something I've known about forever, consider old hat, haven't thought about in years, or have long been jaded about. Or just something I'm...over.
Far from minding those emails, though, I get a particular sort of happiness from them. They remind me that anything can be new to someone who hasn't encountered it before, who is discovering it for the first time.
These events in our lives are occasions for us, no matter how blasé anyone else might be. Art itself is like that. You always have a right to respond to art as if your experience of it is a significant event for you. My friend Jim Schley taught me that, when he spoke once with his characteristic feeling and wisdom about how reading a book is an occasion. A book isn't a static thing, unchanging, that sits on a shelf, outside of time; it's a potential interaction, because the volatility between what's written and its reader can be a sort of alchemy under the right conditions. How good a book is for you depends on when you come to it, what you bring to it, whether it fits what you need or what you're ready for when you encounter it. Any "great" book can be dull and flat for us unless some or all of those conditions pertain.
Every day, someone discovers photography, or some new potential in it, or even just some bit of equipment, or an artist, or a body of work, or an idea that seems to them worth getting excited about. Every day, lots of things that are old hat to me are new to someone, and hold energy, and life, and promise, and newness for them. I like being reminded of that.
Featured Comment by Robert Howell: "I was this morning reviewing Tsure-zure Gusa (Essays in Idleness) by the 14th century Yoshida Kenko-boshi, having discovered it last night while reading an Italian essay on post-war Japan! One of Kenko's observations: 'To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.'"
Featured Comment by Catherine: "'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905–1971). As a tonic for the jaded, I heartily recommend his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. And, for visual accompaniment, John Daido Loori.
Mike replies: Catherine, I agree. I love that book. And it's amazing how much of the discussion in it, as well as the advice in Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery, applies to photographing.