A picture is worth a thousand words, but they are lies. Photographs certainly do tell a story and can bring memories flooding back into our minds, but they can lead us into believing that they tell the truth about life. Photographs are static. In a picture we never change. We are forever the same age, knowing the same things, believing the same things, and doing the same thing. In reality we are constantly changing. Even from moment to moment we do not remain consistent.
I’m not trying to say that photographs are bad or evil, but we should pause to consider whether we view life through a static photographer’s lens or whether we are aware of how our lives are constantly changing. Do we feel that we are basically the same person now as we were a decade ago? Do we sometimes think that nothing in our lives changes? Do we feel stagnated and that every day is the same thing over and over? If so, then we have fallen into the trap of seeing life as a photograph and have failed to grasp the ever-changing present.
We might think of the cells in our bodies and how they are constantly dying and being replaced by new ones. Perhaps we could talk about friends and family who move in and out of our lives. Maybe we could try to measure our mood from day to day and hour to hour. Looking only at these factors, we can see that we are constantly changing – how much more when we think of the multitude of variables in our lives!
We might agree intellectually that our lives are dynamic – that life is constantly changing and we are constantly changing. This does not change how we feel – stagnated. We want to experience something new and different. Sure, things are changing, but they are not the kinds of changes that we want to see. It might be the case that we need to put our efforts into making life change in the way we desire, but that is not what this post is about. Striving to make a change can be necessary at certain times. At other times, all we need to do is to change our perspective – to see the beauty at work all around us. Do we perceive the ways that we and the world around us are changing?
Although I do not have solid evidence for this claim, I believe that life always moves forward and upward rather than backward or downward. An evolutionary force is at work not only genetically but socially, emotionally, and even spiritually. That which brings forth more life flourishes, while that which does not fades away. Maybe we have our missteps and failures in careers, relationships, and our inner life, but we learn from them and move forward having been made just a little stronger, more clever, more mature, and more capable. Even our failures and our feeling of stagnation can push us to become better. Doing the same thing over and over might not be very exciting, but it is changing us.
I’m a stay-at-home dad. Every morning I wake up around the same time with the same routine. Every afternoon I give my daughter a nap. Every evening my wife returns home and plays with my daughter. Having a child is wonderful, but it can be dreadfully repetitive. What makes it wonderful in spite of all the repetition is that every day my daughter learns to do something new. Every day I find that I am a little more patient. Every day I love her a little more. Every day I learn how to care for my daughter a little better. If we were static beings in a static world, repetition would be boring, but we are dynamic beings in a dynamic world. Life is always changing both in and around us and it can be a beautiful thing. Sometimes the beauty is right there on the surface. Other times it is buried deep within pain, suffering, frustration, or even boredom. What is important is knowing that it is always there and we can find it if we are willing to look. Just be sure you don’t trust a photograph. It tells the truth about yesterday, but it knows nothing of today.