Energy And Expansion

Early Morning Pond

Drop a pebble in a pool of water and waves ripple out. Drop a word or idea and these ripple out—so also emotions, behaviors and the products of creativity. At some level, given enough time, everything affects everything. And everyone.

This is the entire image that I use for my home page. I share it here because it illustrates a fundamental property and process of the universe and everything in it—energy and expansion. From photon to cosmos, whatever the matter or medium, energy characteristically expands. I find it fascinating that, in this image, it’s not the water that’s radiating, it’s the energy moving through it. Had a cork been floating three feet from the center, it would have bobbed up and down and remained in place.

Although physicists don’t know what energy is, they know a lot about its properties, effects and measurement. The textbook definition of energy is the capacity of a system to perform work. And work is defined as the movement of force through a distance. That being the case, it seems to me that force is movement itself. Nothing in the universe stands still. Even the atom with its myriad of sub-atomic particles (more appropriately considered fields although they are still talked about as particles) cannot stand still.

This begs a fundamental question. If the substantive characteristic of energy is movement, how did it get started? What got it going? What sustains it? And what is it that actually moves? As a working hypothesis, I’ve adopted the perspective that consciousness is fundamental. Whatever it is, it precedes matter. So could it be that within matter there is—both grand and rudimentary (as in rocks)—a “desire” to expand? To express? I like this idea because it ties to “affinity” or love energy, which binds and seeks expression that results in expansion.

Of course these ideas raise questions that cannot be answered definitively, but the expansion of this kind of mental energy itself, call it dreaming, speculating or envisioning helps us create meaning and approach the Great Mystery. Where there’s a question there’s always the potential for an answer. And that provides some satisfaction. In this regard I observe that the surface of the pond in this image is largely obscured by fog that’s in the process of clearing. As a species we may as yet be seeing through a fog, but what we are seeing so far is exquisite beyond words.

On a more personal level, the radiating waves evoke in me a quiet and soft sensibility that speaks to the potency of influence that occurs when the thoughts and expressions that ripple out are coherent with the deep currents of life, as opposed to the big splashes that are so bold and dramatic they interfere with or distract us from the underlying currents. An example of this would be the energies of mass media adolescence, sensationalism, hype and trash-talk. Of course there’s a time and place for both excitement and calm. Wisdom,  I suppose, has to do with discernment and finding a comfortable balance.

Any being with energy will disperse that energy. To radiate is the law of the universe. And this is true of all manifested reality… The universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead, it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways.

Brian Swimme

 On Making This Image

On a particular trip I got up two hours before sunrise so I could be on location to photograph the dawning and then shoot as long as the light held. When there are no people around and the only sounds are those of nature—birds, frogs and ducks on this particular morning—it’s easy to get in the zone. It’s like the mind steps aside and the soul takes over, responding to moments of joy as the eye scans for compositions.

As I think about it now, there’s a release of thinking and an activation of allowing that occurs—letting the energies of attraction direct my attention, and then letting the deep place of intuition determine whether or not the elements within the frame constitute an image that works.

When I arrived at Lake Logan in mid-state Ohio, the fog was too thick to shoot. It was cold, so I just sat in the car with the heater on. Gradually, the fog began to lift and the water was perfectly still. I made several exposures, all delightful. Then I picked up some pebbles and threw them one at a time as far as I could so the rocks and reeds along the shoreline wouldn’t show in the frame.

With each toss I waited for the ripples to spread out before clicking the shutter. A tripod would have restricted my ability to center the circles since I couldn’t predict where the centers would be, so I held the camera with one hand and threw pebbles with the other. To insure that the image would not be blurred I increased the ISO setting to enable a fast shutter speed and set the aperture to f11 so the depth of field would keep the expanding circle in focus.

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Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them)

Attitude

One of the differences between mediocrity and excellence

Image

In addition to the quiet sensibility that this image evokes in me, it speaks to the human journey, our quest for meaning and purpose, even our individual place and function in the world as we paddle this way and that with attention focused mainly on the surface of things.

Quantum theorists observe that, at the level of quanta, consciousness—thought—directs and influences the outcome of that which is sought in research experiments. Until a researcher looks  for a particular sub-atomic particle, it can occupy two different places at the same time. And then it only shows up where she looks. Might the same be true at the human level? Could our surface realities be reflections of underlying expectations in consciousness?

In this regard, I recently noticed a sharp contrast between the experience of two grocery stores. In one the employees were bored and unhappy, preferring to engage each other in gossip and playful banter while halfheartedly waiting on customers. Perhaps reflecting the scattered consciousness of the manager—or the other employees—the store was messy and cluttered. And the atmosphere was stressful.

In the other store, the employees were pleasant, doing their jobs, responding to customer’s questions and looking people in the eye. A new employee went and got immediate help to answer my wife’s question about a checking procedure and both she and the manager were courteous. The place was clean and orderly, the atmosphere so inviting and friendly I commented to Linda on the way out about the difference in attitude—consciousness. I think it was the calm sensibility of the above image that prompted my comparison. The water was calm because the men in the rowboat were calm. One reflected the other. Neither of them were rocking the boat.

Building greatness is achieved one human being at a time. The difference between whether an organization is mediocre or superb is determined by whether all its individual members are mediocre or superb. The difference between organizations that are mediocre and those that are great is the attitude within each of us—our values and our culture. An inspired organization is simply the sum of inspired souls.

Lance Secretan

Beyond the relationship between consciousness and the effects it ripples onto the surface of life, further consideration of this image reminded me of past experiences in a rowboat, the smoothness of oak, the sound of paddles turning in the oarlocks, the pull against the water, the water swishing and dripping off the oars as they were raised, the drops and ripples they make when the paddling stops, and the bumping of wood on wood. Deeper yet, I imagine the voices of the men in the boat, perhaps telling stories about the one that got away, how things used to be or ought to be, sharing memories of great games, players or plays and where to get the best pizza.

About The Image 

Systemically speaking, each and every component and change of tonality within a photograph is considered a visual element. Images with many elements are said to be “complex.” Those with few elements—as is the case here—are “simple.” The way to ascertain the complexity of an image is simply to count the elements. In complex images this can be so daunting this is rarely done. For example, even though the rippling waves on the quiet blue pond used as the header for this blog leans toward simplicity, it has many score elements.

Although aesthetically opposite, simplicity and complexity are neither good nor bad. They serve different purposes. The more complex the image, the more information it provides. The simpler the image, the greater its emotional impact. Generally speaking then, artists favor complexity when the purpose is to provide information and work toward simplicity when the intent is to generate a feeling. Often, the easiest way to increase complexity is simply to shoot wide to include more elements in the frame. Conversely, to favor simplicity closeups eliminate any element that doesn’t contribute to the message or expression.

To illustrate, consider the number of elements in the original image compared to those in the high contrast version.

Image

Image simplicity is far more difficult to achieve than complexity. For one thing, backgrounds aren’t usually plain. But because simplicity generates feelings, perhaps because it’s unusual in everyday experience, it can substantially enhance an image’s evocative properties, particularly those conducive to contemplation. That’s not to say that complex images can’t or don’t generate feelings. They certainly do, for example photographs made on the battlefield or images of babies and animals. I’m just addressing a general aesthetic principle, a technique to be aware of when photographing.

 

For Those Interested In Technique

The original photograph, as shot, was flat and muddy-looking. Nonetheless, the principle element showed promise, so I made a copy of it by printing the negative in contact with a sheet of 4×5 Kodalith Ortho film. The result was a film “positive” that contained only deep blacks and clear white. No mid-tones.

There were some pinholes and other little spots in the lake and other background areas on the positive, so I opaqued them out using Kodak’s red opaque medium. From this film positive I made a negative (in the same way) and opaqued out everything but the rowboat, men, oars and the rippling water. From that negative I made the prints.

Today it’s easier and faster by far to create this type of high contrast image digitally. Using Photoshop, on the toolbar at the top of a page that displays the image, click on Image > Adjustment > Threshold. The “threshold” command converts color and grayscale images to high-contrast devoid of grays. All pixels lighter than the threshold are converted to white. Those darker, convert to black. The result is an image that is black and white with no mid-tones.

Photography brings what is not visible to the surface. I continue on my way seeking my own truth ever affirming today. When I photograph, I make love. Photography is my passion; the search for truth my obsession.

Alfred Stieglitz

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Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them) 

Part—Whole Relationship

Individual expression matters

Image

Do you see the jetliner? Remove any one of the pixels in the above image and there would be a hole in the whole (photograph). It wouldn’t be complete. It wouldn’t be the same photograph. Some might say it would have a flaw.

The universe presents itself to us as a system composed of parts-within-wholes, of systems within systems, organized through time and evolution as interdependent levels of complexity. Each part, including you and me, is integral to the whole; and, in some holographic sense, each part is a microcosm of the greater macrocosm. Each part contains within itself the seed or template of the whole.

Christian de Quincey

Each and every individual pixel within a digital image is a necessary part of the whole picture—if it’s to be complete. Because pixels have unique characteristics such as size, color, luminance and value they are also individuals by virtue of their boundaries, each bearing a strong relationship to those in close proximity, less so for those farther away. Even the myriad of individual pixels so distant they appear to be unrelated are present and contributing to the whole picture.

Had the above scene been photographed on film, the parts would have consisted of grains of silver halide which are “fixed” entities. They couldn’t be changed. On the other hand, because digital pixels are “virtual,” consisting of  units of electron excitations, they can quite easily be manipulated—for instance, made lighter or darker with changes in color. Whether the image substrate happens to be paper or a computer screen, photographic images are mechanical systems, constituted of parts that can be manipulated—in the developing and printing processes or using software applications such as Photoshop in the case of digital images.

Not so with living systems, which are composed of other living systems each of whom continuously makes choices regarding their function and relationships. At every level, a living system is referred to as a “holon” because the uniqueness and integrity of the whole depends upon the integrity of its parts. And because each individual holon—cell, organism or person—makes decisions for itself relative to its condition, purpose, function, environment and host of dynamic considerations, such systems are said to be constituted of “members” rather than parts. When parts are interchanged in a mechanical system it returns to its functional design. But when members are replaced in a living system it is newly constituted. At every level then, as change occurs—within a living system or its enviornment—the holons change. They become new by adapting, or they die. Thus the expression relating to human beings, “Grow or die.”

Scientists refer to the decision-making capability of a holon as autopoiesis or “self-making.” By our choices we constantly make ourselves, not just our experience of life. My dear friend and philosopher of science, Beatrice Bruteau, writes that “In all living systems it’s the interactive union of the parts, the sharing of their beings, their energies, that constitutes the new whole.” The sharing of their beings. Atoms unite to make molecules, molecules unite to make cells, that unite to make organisms, that unite to make organs, that unite to make… You get the picture.

Systemically speaking, whether we share, what we share and how we share our being, beyond but including what we do to make a living, makes a profound difference for the whole. This is especially so for those within our circle. But it’s also the case, by extension and facilitated by the electronic media, for those beyond it, the larger holons within which we function as members—family, community, church, business, industry, nation, species. As members of a church, community and political systems, we remake these larger holons by our presence and everyday choices.

In the above image I’m reminded that every human being (pixel in the analogy), regardless of circumstances, is an integral part of the  emerging picture of the human family. Every day, the quality and manner of our character, choosing and relating contributes to the making of this picture.

What happens in and to one of the system’s parts also happens in and to all its other parts, and hence it happens in and to the system as a whole.

Ervin Laszlo

Image

This image displays a greatly enlarged section from the lower right corner of the sky image to demonstrate how individual holons (pixels in this case) contribute to and constitute the larger image. To better discern the jet aircraft, step back from your screen about fifteen or twenty feet.

About These Images

It was the rainbow-like ring around the sun that prompted me to point my camera up. Looking through the viewfinder and recognizing the speck as an airplane, my first inclination was to crop it out. But seeing that the size relationship was evocative, I decided to keep it in.

After downloading the image to the computer, I zoomed in to see if the airplane was sharp. It was. And that’s when I discovered that, by zooming in as far as Photoshop would allow, there was a clean distinction between the airplane pixels and those of the blue sky. Equally fascinating visually was seeing how the sky was constituted of many colors and values beyond medium blue.

The juxtaposition of the sunburst and the jetliner, an object we consider large and carrying many people, prompted me to contemplate the nature of part-whole relationships.

References:

Bruteau, Beatrice, 1997. God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World. Crossroad Publishing Company. New York, NY.

Land, George, 1997. Grow Or Die: The Unifying Principle Of Transformation. Leadership 2000 Inc.. Carlsbad, CA.

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Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them)

The Noosphere

Outside and above the biosphere there is a field of mind.

Satellite Farm

”Because satellite dishes look skyward, I sometimes imagine lines of light, like coherent laser beams, streaming out of them toward their satellites. If those beams could somehow become visible at night, globally and simultaneously, the resulting web of crisscrossing lines and waves would be dazzling, testimony to humanity’s hunger to relate and learn.

The invisible energies that radiate from worldwide microwave, radio, cellphone and television towers, including satellite transmissions and cable and fiberoptic lines combine to form a global communications “structure.” Several decades before this structure explosed in scope and complexity, French Jesuit and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote about a “Noosphere,”  literally a “sphere of mind” that encompasses the Earth like the atmosphere. The term was actually coined much  earlier by Vladimir Vernadsky, a Russian biochemist, to describe an emerging state of the biosphere where “scientific reasoning” would eventually prevail. Teilhard took an entirely different approach, attributing the term to a naturally evolving consciousness that increases with increasing complexity.

In his view, as social systems such as law, government, education, religion and commerce become more complex and their members interact and become more linked and self-aware, their collective thought will tend toward ever greater organization, personalization and unification—patterns he recognized in biological evolution as adaptations for survival.

Centuries ago, the ancient Rishis, Vedic sages in Indian culture, spoke of “Akasha” in Sanskrit as a subtle, all-encompassing medium that underlies all things and becomes all things. In the New Testament, evangelists Luke (12:7) and Matthew (10:30) spoke about everything being recorded, “Even the very hairs of my head are numbered.” In modern times, Madam H.P. Blavastsky (1831-1891) a clairvoyant founder of the theosophical society, spoke of the Akashic records as a non-physical library of every human and non-human event, thought, word, emotion and intent ever to have occurred in the past, present, or future—throughout the universe.  Edgar Casey, “the sleeping prophet,” claimed the Akashic records was one of his sources. So also, the philosopher of science Rudolf Steiner, who wrote about the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria.

In modern science, Nikola Tesla observed that an “original medium” that fills space was like the Akasha, “a light-carrying ether.” He considered that medium to be a force field that becomes matter when Prana, cosmic energy, acts on it, and when the action ceases, matter vanishes and returns to Akasha.

Irvin Laszlo, author of Science and the Akashic Field, says “Scientists now realize that space is not empty, and what is call the “quantum vacuum” is in fact a cosmic plenum, a fundamental medium that recalls the concept of Akasha.” He goes on to say, “In the next development of science, the A-field (Akasha) will join the currently known universal fields: the G-field (gravity), the EM-field (electromagnetic), the Higgs (bozon) field, and the locally effective but universally present strong and weak nuclear fields.”

Consistent in these writings about the Akashic “record” is the notion that we not only contribute to the Akashic record by every thought, word and deed, through meditative processes we can access information and inspiration from it. A computer library  such as a “cloud” is an apt metaphor in this regard.

The image of the satellite farm prompted me, not only to consider the evolving noosphere as an Akashic field, but also to think about the content we’re feeding into it. What are we communicating? What are we saying—to and about each other? How are we talking about and depicting human nature itself? What is our contribution to life? Are our acts and conversations contributions to love or fear?

What’s on our minds? What do we value? What are we teaching the next generation? Is the increasing capacity to communicate easier, better, faster and farther making life more enriching for many more people? What should we be talking about? What kind of future are we shaping by our words and images? And what intentions, acts, words, information and thoughts am I contributing to the Akashic record? Rhetorical questions all, but important ones to consider.

Gregory Bateson defined information as “A difference that makes a difference.” Whatever the medium, are our connections—personally and socially—making a positive difference? Are they facilitating and empowering individuals to identify and realize more of their potentials? Relate better? Solve difficult challenges? Repair breakdowns? Are they positively affecting the health and well-being and reproductive success of the species? Responses to such questions point to the direction of communication’s evolution, the evolution of consciousness.

Standing back far enough to let the content of our communication blur for a moment, and fast forwarding, factoring in the rate of communication technology change, I observe a dynamic and unified global communication system already performing functions identical to those of the human nervous system—sensing, interpreting and activating the body (humanity) to respond to change appropriately, that is, toward the health and well-being of all its members. From the science of living systems we learned that when the individual members of a society are functioning well, the whole performs well. It’s also the lesson of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Although it has been many years since I worked in broadcast television, production technologies and media facilities such as television and radio stations, satellite trucks, and farms still get my heart pounding. In them I see the enormous, barely tapped opportunity they have to lift the spirit, empower, inspire and facilitate the realization of human potential.

I believe Teilhard’s grand vision of our collective consciousness moving in the direction of divine realization can be realized—if whatever the issue, we find its resolution in acts of love rather than fear. I offer THIS LINK as a demonstration of that.

A glow ripples outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever widening circles ’till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence. Much more coherent and just as extensive as any preceding layer, the ‘thinking layer,’ which, since its germination at the end of the Tertiary period, has spread over and above the world of plants and animals. In other words, outside and above the biosphere there is a noosphere.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

About The Image

Readings on the topics of dark matter, dark energy and zero point gravity prompted my desire to photographically represent or evoke an awareness of the many forces and energies that we can’t see with our eyes. When I read that “Space is not nothing,” that it’s a “Seething maelstrom of subatomic particles,” and that the composition of the universe is 73% dark energy, 23% dark matter and only 4% atoms, which combine to make hard matter, I wanted somehow to represent this with my camera.

The challenge was how to photograph the invisible. I was stalled, thinking about this for months. And then, typically, a conversation with Linda revealed a way to proceed. She proposed that, rather than showing the lines of force (which I was thinking I might physically need to draw on photographs), I could suggest them by their relationship to the land and other Earth objects. She noted that some of my images already did this. (For instance, Solitude, the image featured in my blog entitled “Attitude.”

The very next day I was out with my camera shooting tests. Since only 4% of the universe is constituted of matter, I decided to include approximately only that much subject matter in the frame. The rest would be either blank, a continuous field of color or texture or blank sky. It worked. For me at least.

I went to the computer and searched for a destination where I could find immensities of land, sky or water. On Google Earth I found what I was looking for. (The little “man” icon that can be dragged to any street to see what’s there was particularly helpful). The Northern Plains of South Dakota and Nebraska had “oceans” of wheat fields, fascinating peaks in the Badlands and wide open skies. Using Map Quest I found lodging facilities that I could reach within a day and still be close to the areas where I wanted to photograph the next morning.

I chose to visit this area at a time when the wheat was knee-high and turning golden. I photographed for a week, early morning until and sometimes after dark. I was in the flow, ecstatic every day. I hadn’t realized that there would be so little traffic. Frequently, I set up my tripod in the middle of a highway and shot with a 4×5 view camera without a single vehicle passing by. I could drive thirty or forty miles down county roads and not see another car or human being. In many places there were neither fences nor phone poles. And I’d never seen so much wildlife.

This photograph was made at the end of a day, behind the motel where I was staying. It’s an example of an image that evokes a sense of invisible forces, in this case, television and microwaves. Many of these photographs are in my portfolio, and I published two Blurb monographs featuring photographs of “The Northern Plains.”

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Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them)

The Wonder Of Being

What had to happen for these leaves to be photographed?

Leaves By Streetlamp

Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.

                                                                  Hermann Hesse

This is one of the first photographs I made as a student at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), not as an assignment, but attempting to explore how the light without could reveal the light within. I felt that the black and white photographs of masters such as Ansel Adams, Ed Weston and John Paul Caponigro pointed to or evoked sensibilities beyond and deeper than representation. They not only increased my appreciation of subject matter, they helped me see deeper into essences through the patterns in creation.

My photographic contemplations usually begin with an evoked feeling or question. With respect to Leaves By Lamplight, the question that comes to mind as I write is one of the most common because it can be asked of every photograph irrespective of subject matter — What had to happen for this subject matter and image to exist? And that includes the circumstances that gave rise to them. What had to happen for me to be wandering the streets of Rochester, New York in the dark, with a 4×5 camera and tripod, looking for something to photograph?

The answer, of course, is EVERYTHING! Everything since a speck, tinier by far than a grain of sand, dramatically burst forth and expanded to become the cosmos that we know—all of space-time with its invisible fields of energy and clumps of matter, the galaxies, stars and planets including their patterns of organization, some 13.7 billion years of evolutionary unfolding, the position of planets with respect to the Sun, the cooling of the Earth and the shifting of the continents, the unbelievably precise conditions to produce the water and atmosphere that gave rise to living organisms, all of human evolution and technological development up until that cold September night in 1962 when I made the exposure. Had any one of these events, elements, object or process varied even slightly—including my birth and life experiences up until that moment—the tree, the lamppost and the above image would not exist.

According to cosmologist, Brian Swimme, if the rate of the expanding universe had been slower by even a millionth of one percent, it would have recollapsed. Conversely, if the universe had expanded faster by even a millionth of a percent it would have expanded too quickly for structures to form. So if the unfolding of the universe had not occurred exactly as it has, this image, the photographer and you the reader would not exist.

It’s a humbling perspective that leads me to appreciate that those of us alive today stand as the pinnacle achievement of the evolutionary process, the result of countless lines of ancestors going back to just a few individuals in Africa more than 40,000 years ago. They survived to reproduce. And we are the result of their success down through the ages. Now, we are the leading edge of the future, determining what it will be.

So in this image I see evidence of the perfection and success of being itself—ALL being, as it happened and as it is. Though we humans may be imperfect in our becoming, we and everything around us is perfectly being what it is and doing what it needs to do. Here and now, in and through us, the universe with all it’s blessings and blemishes is, in us, reflecting upon itself, coming to self-knowledge—the Love that we are—through infinitely diverse and creative expression.

Just as Morning Glory blossoms attract hummingbirds to extend their line, the young leaves on this particular tree in Rochester, New York attracted a young college student many decades ago to stop and notice them. Due to the law of attraction they captured me and it turn I captured their image. Part of the wonder is that, although those leaves are long gone, they are still present and operating in my life—and now, because of their presentation here, beyond it.

About This Image

I’d driven out to the residential district of Rochester, looking for something to photograph. Realizing that I was spending more time driving than taking pictures, I stopped the car, got out my 4×5 camera, film holders and tripod and started walking. Within moments there were some low-hanging leaves blocking my path on the sidewalk. They were backlit by a globular street lamp about fifteen feet away. The veins in the leaves were exquisite but the light meter indicated that the  level was too low to even move the needle. Especially mitigating against making a photograph was the nearly constant wind. A time exposure would result in a completely blurred image. Nonetheless, I was so taken by the backlit leaves I set up the camera. When I saw on the ground glass how the street lamp was an out of focus radiating ball of light I got excited. There were no guidelines for making this kind of exposure, but I’d read about a technique and  decided to try it.

I composed the elements and set the aperture close to wide open to insure that the streetlamp would be out of focus. When the wind died down, I critically focused on the tip of the brightest leaf, inserted a film holder in the camera, removed the dark slide and held it in front of the lens to block the light. With the shutter set on “T” for time-exposure, I waited for the wind to stop. They never did. But when they quieted I lifted the dark slide from the lens to allow the exposure. When moved a lot I covered the lens. This went on for about five minutes. The leaves were moving so much I was sure I’d overexposed and the image would be unusable.

As it happened, the processed negative elicited an immediate WOW! Dumb luck or happy accident, I didn’t care. It worked. Later on I submitted the photograph for an assignment and received an “A+.” After class, the professor, Charles Arnold, returned it to me with a comment—”That’s a really nice image!” That photograph was one of the ones that set me on the path of a lifelong aesthetic quest.

Greta Thunberg Speaks Urgency To Power

In a previous posting in this series, one of the reasons I expressed optimism regarding climate change was the concern and initiatives of young people. Because sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has stepped up to speak to power with intelligence, wisdom and passion, I dedicate this posting to her and those she is influencing worldwide. 

As the image above illustrates, a storm is brewing and it’s time to do something about it.

You may have seen sound-bites of Greta on television, but I highly recommend these presentations.  

Greta Thunberg’s 11 minute TED TALK

 (1, 734,269 views)

Greta Thunberg at the UN (4 minutes) “How dare you!”

(Over 2 million views)

Greta Thunberg speaks to EU leaders (4 minutes)

(664,719 views)


Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.

Which Would You Rather Have: More Or Better? Choose one.

The climate challenge and decision point for everyday citizens

Ecologists note that growth in commerce and the economy are primarily based on consumption, which is linear and limited because resources are finite. Growth in nature, however, is cyclical and unlimited because the decay of organisms produces materials that are recycled. Mulching is a prime example.

Less considered but equally contributing to the slowing and diminishing severity of the changing climate is a shift in thinking from quantity to quality. Ecologists promote “qualitative growth”  rather than quantative growth because it enhances the quality of life. According to systems theorist and ecologist Fritjof Capra “In living organisms, ecosystems, and societies, qualitative growth includes an increase of complexity, sophistication, and maturity. Unlimited quantitative growth on a finite planet is clearly unsustainable, but qualitative economic growth can be sustained if it involves a dynamic balance between growth, decline, and recycling, and if it also includes the inner growth of learning and maturity.”

Psychologists trace motivations and desires to a variety of physical, mental and emotional causes. Whatever they may be, everyday living is filled with choice-points. Growing up in a consumption-oriented culture, decisions relating to what we need and want come easily because so many products and services are on the shelf. Available. But as the above image attests, “everything has a price tag.” Our hesitation is often just affordability and priority.

Consumption proliferates in the bloodstream of American culture. The unwritten, unspoken but clearly understood and pervasive message is clear: Having things and having exciting experiences will make you happy. There’s even a well-trodden path to success in life, the American dream. Get your toys, books, desk, telephone, computer, car, college degree, apartment, job, spouse, house, children, stock portfolio, pension and retire in luxury. It brings to mind comedian George Carlin’s sketch A Place For My Stuff. 

… And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up; wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. 

George Carlin

When peoples’ homes, properties and material goods have been destroyed in a fire, flood or tornado they report, “At least we have each other.” Homes can be rebuilt. Goods can be replaced. Happiness is not  attained through acquiring, owning or consuming, not even collecting a variety of interesting or exciting experiences. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with these. It’s just good to be aware of what we’re considering at decision-points, so consumption is based on real needs and prioritized wants, ideally taking social consequences and the environment into consideration. 

Historically, because the modus operandi in science is measurement, money became the best way to assign value. Then, when movies and television came along they showed us that having more was sexy, fun and glamorous. Images of people having less were shown to be miserable. It’s a fallacy, of course. The tragic lives of many attest to the fact that extravagant wealth and high status are no guarantee of happiness. And many people around the world are happy despite their lack of luxury items and meager living conditions.

Ecologists recommend a shift in thinking, making life-decisions less about quantity and more about quality across the board—in material goods, services, relationships. Such decisions enhance the quality of life and at the same time lessen the ecological footprint and optimize sustainability.

 

The perpetual growth myth promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world’s problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root of our unsustainable global practices.

Brundtland, G.H., Author, Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act

 

I found it curious and on the mark that Dr. Capra cited “inner growth of learning and maturity” as contributing to sustained qualitative economic growth. For instance, it took a lot of maturing for me to realize that, in many instances, buying cheap is a false economy. It’s more economical to pay more for a high quality product that will last, than an inexpensive one that will need to be replaced.

A popular consumer attitude is summed up in the bumpersticker slogan, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Linda had a student who died unexpectedly in his freshman year of college while studying architecture. His dream was to design a great building. In high school, he’d built a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.  After hearing that he’d passed, she said to her class: “What you do today could be the most important thing you’ll ever do.” Relative to our topic, it matters less how much we get done or how much we have, far more important is how well we do what we do. And the joy it brings. In light of this, I’d revise the bumpersticker to say “He wins, who dies having fulfilled his purpose in life.”

 

Ecological healing requires our society to look beneath its consumptive symptoms and reorient toward qualitative development. To do so requires significant reprogramming, since our guiding narratives, from economic to scientific, embody quantitative thinking.

Charles Eisenstein, Author, Climate—A New Story

 

As the purpose of this blog is to express appreciation, I am grateful for the many companies that advises their customers to “consume responsibly.” I appreciate those in leadership positions who are finding ways to conserve and recycle their goods and packaging materials. And I acknowledge the many restaurants and employees who are giving customers the option of taking less or no plastic.

 


Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.

Reframing The Ecological Challenge

How we talk and what we see determines how we act

The Data

The climate has been changing since the Earth coalesced. It will continue to do so until it’s subsumed by the sun billions of years from now. The recent concern is that human beings have accelerated the rate of change—10 to 100 times faster than in the past 65 million years— to the point where the quality of life, perhaps even life itself, is being threatened.

In his 2001 book, The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery, Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission of the Federal Government reported, “The Earth’s average temperature is around 60º F. A rise of a single degree will decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of species, and most probably billions of people.” A 2017 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters estimates that Earth’s climate will be 1.5º F higher as early as 2026. By 2050, the physical world and lifestyles worldwide will be dramatically different. The ways in which it will be different is the challenge of this and the next three generations.”

A Statista report in September of 2020 noted that “The past years were the warmest years on record, where warming was driven largely by increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

 

How We Talk

In Climate: A New Story, Charles Eisenstein advises against “reductionistic war thinking,” and talking about destroying problems, even if the problem is climate change. The language of war and destruction, he says, “is an extension of the culture of death, domination and control that has led us to the verge of collapse.”

Instead, he invites us to adopt a framework of love which gives us permission to trust what is innate to us, namely “our love of life and our desire to save it.” His observation brought to mind the many ways we talk about issues—the war on drugs, fighting wildfires, battling cancer, defeating ISIS and so on. The language we’ve been using, largely adopted from the media’s propensity toward sensational and confrontational news stories, ads and soundbites has contributed to polarization. Instead, the changing climate could be a challenge that unites us.

High thoughts must have high language.

Aristophanes (Greek philosopher)

 

Simon Sinek Says We Got Global Warming Wrong.  Michael Touchton explains Sinek’s criticism, that global warming has a marketing problem. “We’ve confused people with poor messaging and we’ve assumed that people’s better nature would lead them to act selflessly. Wrong.”

People need to be convinced, inspired, sold and left to feel like they’ve decided to act out of their own free will and self-interest.” Instead of talking about saving the planet 50 years out, he proposes that we talk about ourselves and loved ones being in danger. “We need to communicate exactly what the problem is in a way that people will immediately understand and emotionally feel. People get cancer… There is a cancer in our climate. And if we don’t act, there will be death.

Simon Sinek

 

What And How We See

Regarding significant issues like the rapidly changing climate, polarization is built-in by virtue of duality—opposing views. Rather than framing the matter in the language of competition, which encourages people to take sides and respond forcefully, sometimes violently, Eisenstein advises a shift in the frame to the language of love. “No matter the issue,” he says, “what’s required are shifts in perception and attitude toward—

  • I have a strong point of view, but I will keep an open mind, willing to be convinced of a greater good for all.
  • We are not in a war, battle or contest. We will work together to find the best decision, ideally not one that is right for me and wrong for you.
  • Both our views deserve to be heard with equal respect and serious consideration.
  • Both our views need to be supported by facts and debated with sound reasoning.
  • Because we are in this together, an enlightened change of mind is highly respected.
  • Lacking facts, our guideline for decision-making will be the optimization of benefit and minimization of harm to all—people, environment, society, world.
  • Before deciding, we will investigate and openly share the positive and negative consequences of our perspectives in consideration of people, environment, flora, fauna, society and planet.
  • Once a vote is taken or an impartial judge decides, we will accept the outcome gracefully and move on.
  • Maintaining a friendly and respectful working relationship is more important than having things go my way.”

 

Researching online for my screenplay, Love—Period!—about a musician who rises to prominence on concert stages worldwide because of his love of Earth and commitment to conservation—I appreciated the many celebrities who are articulating their concerns and personal lifestyle changes relative to climate change. Also, it’s encouraging that ordinary people, all over the world, are doing what they can to be part of the solution. There’s is not the language of war or the perception of a distant catastrophe, its the language of caring, personal responsibility and collaboration. Doing what can be done right now.   

All living systems heal in true relationship. We need a deep revolution in how we relate to the rest of life—not as dominators of nature, but as partners in an evolutionary process that is much greater than ourselves. Only love can give us the kind of courage and willingness to offer ourselves to the more beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible.

Charles Eisenstein, Author, Climate: A New Story

Our language and nervous system combine to constantly construct our environment.

Francisco Varela, Chilean biologist, philosopher, neuroscientist

 


Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.

Radiance

Light expanding from source / Source

Radiance

Early in my photographic life I formulated a guideline that has served me well to this day. Since light is the essence that reveals subject matter, and because my urge was to pursue essences, I adopted the practice of looking more for “qualities of light” than interesting subject matter. Because color tends to arrest the attention, my preferred medium for creative photography was and remains black and white, which emphasizes the qualities of form, texture and geometry.

Whether on location or in my basement studio, my first consideration was always the light—its angle, brightness, color, contrast and it’s modulation between soft diffusion and crisp specularity. Working in this manner and reflecting on the results over time, I noticed that certain qualities of light contributed to an evocative spiritual quality I refer to as numinance. For instance, the above image calls me to consider both the nature of light and its use as a metaphor for intelligence, ideas and “illumination” in the spiritual sense.

In science, the essence of light is still an open question. At the atomic level a unit of light is referred to as a photon, but that’s just a label to describe an energy that has a fixed speed but no mass and can behave as either a particle or a wave depending on how it’s observed. Photons are entirely different from matter, yet they give rise to and sustain matter. We know they’re produced when energy is either added or subtracted within an atom, specifically when an electron—best conceived as an energy field—“jumps” from one orbit to another, incredibly, without crossing the distance. Gazillions of these events happening together result in the streams of light entering my eye. Physicist David Bohm saw these emissions as information, content, form and structure itself, regarding light as “the potential of everything.”

The above image also evokes in me considerations of the first light of the universe, a result of the great expansion or Big Bang. A key property of light, like the universe, is that it expands in all directions at once, piercing the darkness. It’s this expansive feature that gives rise to light as a metaphor for birth, awakening, increased awareness and spiritual evolution. Deepak Chopra observed that, “In the dark we will always seek the light.” We are creatures who seek meaning, clarity and understanding. Literally, light throughout the cosmos is itself the source of our increasing understanding of the universe and our beginning. A photographer friend, Walt Weidenbacher, referenced light as a guideline for living when he said, “The world is as big as the candle we carry.”

Are we not all, potentially, radiant? Sources of light? Through transmission and reflection we reveal ourselves to each other and the world, and awaken within. Having been fortunate to cross paths with many individuals who radiate light through qualities of character, refined personalities and expanded consciousness it gives me joy to think of them and know that they’re illuminating the darkness, making a positive difference in the world.

Can you name three individuals that you know who are sources of light in your life? Now, besides acknowledging them, consider the nature of their light. What are they radiating? What are they reflecting?

Beauty is the radiance of spirit. —  Alex Gray, artist

About This Image

I’d been working with an image that had flare, faint lines of light streaming from the sun, and I wondered if I could reproduce them in the studio with the lines enhanced. “Flare” in a camera amounts to the scattering of light within the lens system, modified by the shape of the aperture, the blades that admit more or less light onto the film or digital chip. The brighter the light; the brighter the flare.

I set up a 4×5 camera on a tripod in the studio and pointed it toward a round and clear 250 watt quartz bulb about ten feet away. To insure sharp, high contrast and radiating lines, the source had to be as tiny and bright as possible without any kind of reflector or housing behind it. I positioned the camera and bulb so its filament was in the center in the frame. Then I turned out the lights to insure total darkness.

The alignment turned out to be critical. Slight changes in the camera position made dramatic differences in the image, so I adjusted the alignment until the streaming lines of light were at a maximum—which turned out not to be dead-center. Since the amount of flare was different at different aperture settings there was no way to evaluate the exposure, so I exposed several sheets of film at different f-stops.

This image, photographed at f16, had the most prominent lines. The negative was very dense, so to bring out more of the gray areas in the halo’s I overexposed the paper. Even more exposure would have revealed the coiled filament in the bulb, so I left it white in order to generalize rather than particularize the source to give the image a numinous quality.


Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.

Environmental Ethics

What is the value of all living things?

Tecpan, Guatemala

Definition Of Ethics:

The basic concepts and fundamental principles of decent human conduct. It includes study of universal values such as the essential equality of all men and women, human or natural rights, obedience to the law of land, concern for health and safety and, increasingly, also for the natural environment. The Business Dictionary

I like this definition because it includes the environment as a universal value that deserves consideration and respect. When the top priority of industry leaders is profit, and when government leaders put the economy and jobs first, they view the environment as a resource, a means to those ends.Seeing environmental policies and regulations as an obstacle, they’ll block or override them.

Historically, this mentality has been fanning the flames of climate change since 1950—and it’s still happening. Accelerating actually. Profit-driven leaders are pressing the peddle to the metal,  turning away, not understanding or caring that the health and well-being of the world population is at stake. In the first place, it’s a problem of wrong-perception driven by the illusion of separation that results in self-centeredness and greed. Globally, it’s a psychological virus. And it thrives because the the antidote, moral-ethical thinking applied to the environment, is sadly lacking.

Ethics Can Be Learned

A study by Lawrence Kohlberg, cited by psychologist James Rest of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University offers hope:    

  • Dramatic changes occur in young adults in their 20s and 30s in terms of the basic problem-solving strategies they use to deal with ethical issues.
  • These changes are linked to fundamental changes in how a person perceives society and his or her role in it.
  • The extent to which change occurs in a person is associated with the number of years of formal education (college or professional school).
  • Deliberate educational attempts (formal curriculum) to influence awareness of moral problems and to influence the reasoning or judgment process have been demonstrated to be effective.
  • Studies indicate that a person’s behavior is influenced by his or her moral perception and moral judgments.
  • A person’s ability to deal with moral issues is not formed all at once. Just as there are stages of growth in physical development, the ability to think morally also develops in stages. 

Where Is Ethics Learned?

At Home

Primarily, moral-ethical awareness and practice derive from observing these in our parents.  Also, by having conversations about it. When an issue came up in my family, besides a scolding, part of the price was a healthy dose of discourse on right and wrong, good and bad, proper and improper behavior—and its consequences. Over an over, we heard “It’s not what we do.” “It’s not who we are.” “You’re better than that.” “The one you hurt most is yourself.” And in one way or another, these messages were reinforced by relatives. 

Religious Institutions 

Worldwide, most religions teach a code of ethics, principles that promote honesty, respect for others, selflessness, altruism and good deeds. Exposure to these principles fortifies one against the inclination to “take the easy way out. Religions provide the “brakes” through an emphasis on negative consequences. “You’ll go to hell.” “You’ll create negative karma that will have to be paid through suffering in another lifetime.” But there’s also the positive side: “If you’re good, you’ll go to heaven.” “You won’t have to endure the endless round of incarnations.” Having been raised in the Catholic tradition through high school, I was exposed to the history, as well as the principles of morality and ethics. 

Educational Institutions

Many colleges offer courses that involve ethics. At R.I.T. (Rochester Institute of Technology)  it was taught in a required philosophy class. I still remember a lecture where the professor said ethics was not acquired naturally, that it had to be taught, and that ethical behavior occurred as a result of an internal commitment made before an ethical dilemma presented itself. It made such an impression on me, I can paraphrase: “Ethics has to be carried in your back pocket like a wallet. When a situation comes up, you pull it out and you’re reminded of your commitment to be a person of principle, strong in character, unwavering in your resolve to do the right thing.” 

Life Experience

Acting unethically can and often does result in negative, even life-altering consequences. The trial and error method is learning ethics the hard way.

Business

Many corporations and smaller companies have a Code of Ethics designed to specify and regulate how they will and will not conduct their affairs. Infractions can be cause for dismissal. 

Discussions

Casual discussions with family members and friends often involve ethical judgments that have been made or need to be considered. Whether in the context of “gossip” or “small talk,” the opinions of others matters. It’s why “peer groups” are so important in early childhood development. Into adolescence and beyond, if being “cool” or just accepted is being “bad,” ethical considerations never come up. There could be a gun or knife in the back pocket, rather than an ethical reminder.

The Written Word

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Thomas Aquinas are just some of the classical authors who have written about ethics. Since then it has been a topic in the arts, sciences, business, entertainment and mass media industries, including sports.  

Given that historically, the above resources were mostly available to families privileged with the means and access to higher education, and considering the lack of interest in the subject generally, it’s not surprising that many people have not been exposed to ethical thinking, modeling or instruction. 

Questions

As a contemporary field of study, philosophers in environmental ethics wrestle with questions of balance between human and nonhuman concerns. On the human side: Should ecosystems be used freely as a resource? What is the role of “beauty?” As an intrinsic value, does ethics  have a place in discussions of environmental considerations?

“Place” is also important to people. Should some places—environments— be protected? Why? For whom? How long? “Justice” is another consideration. One group may live on land that another wants for development or pass-through rights. And what of future generations? What will be the impact on people who don’t yet exist?

On the nonhuman side: Do all sentient organisms—insects, flora and fauna—need to be considered? What, if any, is their value? Are they equally significant? What about extinction? Which species are expendable? Which are not?

Perspective

Aldo Leopold, a famous American philosopher and forester, said that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise.” Opponents to this view argue that “we can’t clearly identify the boundaries of ecosystems… And why would we think the integrity of a system mattered morally anyway?” 

In my view, it comes down to the kind of world we want for ourselves, our children and the generations that come after them. Do we want a world without—(enter any living thing or landscape)? Do tigers, polar bears, mountain gorillas, sea turtles, orangutans, Sumatran elephants or rhinos have value beyond their utility? If so, here’s the $64,000 question: What are we willing to do, possibly to sacrifice, to keep them alive, healthy and reproducing?

A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.

Albert Schweitzer


Email: smithdl@fuse.net

Portfolio: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.