One seemingly ordinary weekday, I was walking along the road from my home in the woods to run some errands in the little town of Woodstock, NY. My brain, churning a million thoughts — about my relationship, my work, my close friends — suddenly stopped, and what appeared before me was the most unusual and stark arrangement of low hanging clouds.
They weren’t pink. They weren’t special in any postcard kind of way, but they were long and boney, their saw-like edges reaching towards me and slicing through my chatter, landing me in a moment of supreme, holy silence. It was startling in its simple beauty and in the unexpected way the sky rendered me mute and full all at once. As I sank about three feet lower into my body, a surge of gratitude welled up and moistened my eyes.
The whole moment probably lasted about 3 seconds, but it felt like an eternity — until, of course, I knocked myself out of it with the thought: I wish I could take a picture of this. Followed by: And then I could share it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and practically anywhere that those connected to me via technology — those who are true compadres or are simply bored, avoiding their lives, or fulfilling their technology addiction — hangout.
My iPhone did not capture an ounce of the splendor I experienced, but I was haunted by the seemingly knee-jerk impulse to share. Why did I need to share it? Was I robbing myself of a profound, private moment with that impulse? Is it merely my 21st century conditioning?
There was a genuine desire to distribute the gift of unpredictable awe that bubbled up. But what other motives lurked behind that impulse? Do I need to prove I exist? That I bear witness to the grand mystery that is nature? That I have happiness? That I am special?
Or worse, do I need to compensate for the many parts of myself that do not feel deep and holy?
And even more questions followed: Have I become so seduced by a mercenary need to capitalize on my most private moments, to further my BRAND (has anyone else HAD IT with that word?) and an awareness of it? To remind, or rather, convince, people that I am someone deep and trustworthy to grow with?
I wondered, wasn’t nature’s startling display enough?
I write this post not as a judge, but as a witness: A witness to the changes that are happening in my business, in my brain, in my life, and in the way our culture is shaping these changes. And in a true inquiry about the contributions we can make, big and small, and why we make them.
What impact does technology have on your authority, and what thoughts would you like to share about it?
Just prior to my divorce, I enrolled in a four month course at the local … coping-skills-clinic (and that is code for the place adults go when stuff is pretty difficult). It was a course called DBT and over four months, I sat with about 16 other participants and learned skills that had names like Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Crisis Management, and Emotion Regulation. I got a lot of benefit from the course – and learned a lot about being empowered in difficult situations. I can stand. I can think. I can have emotions and still be Okay.
I read your post and I think about control. You were not controlled by the Clouds you saw that afternoon. They struck you but you were in control. You were not controlled by your Phone or your camera or any other device. They were present in your mind, but you were in control. This is a success. I read your post and I value that you are in control. The beauty in nature, the beauty in another individual, the shaking of a tree, the sound of a bird, the laughter of a child, and even the desire to share moments with others in a digital arena and receive strokes or positive reinforcement (that you’re Okay) — as hard as they try, they do not control you. As long as you are on top of the impulse, you control yourself. There are exceptions, but for the most part, when one lives in the arena of mindfulness, one is empowered, on top of emotions and expectations.
In the class, we identified a spot at the intersection of Emotional Mind and Logical Mind. This spot is where the magic happens – The Wise Mind – and this is where we are in control of impulse and cold logic.
I read about the random adrenaline excitement that occurs when people with smart technology receive a text at random intervals. Seeing the incoming message. Seeing the red indicator, randomly, that someone is sending love. A change happens in the brain and in the body. And here we are in 2015 and this is only the beginning.
(For articles of support, search google for “Intermittent Reinforcement” along with words like smartphone or email.)
I am going long. Blair – continue on the journey towards independence. May you be blessed on this journey.
Thanks, as always David, for your deep attention to my posts, and for sharing the thoughts, wisdom and memories that they trigger. We are in control. And we are OK.
First… love the title of this post. Brilliant.
The desire to share something beautiful, profound and moving is human. When we’re swept away by a moment, a thought, a feeling or some freakishly gorgeous clouds, there is an impulse, even a need, to: 1) capture it 2)remember it, and 3) perhaps, share it.
All artists do this. To sing a song that moves you to tears while you’re alone in your studio is one thing. But to sing that song as an offering to others, it becomes more real somehow.
But I get what you mean about this new habit some of us have. To share everything we like, see, comprehend, question or muse about on social media. It can be a very good thing. Or a way to pull out of our own experience, appreciation and opportunity to know God, for lack of a better term. To know and deepen that quivering, delicate connection between you and the Divine.
The fact that you, above all people, loved the title, is a huge compliment, and maybe, since I’ve been reading your work, you even have something do with it!
Thanks for joining me in the reverie about the impulse to share. It is divinely human on all the levels — sacred, tawdry and a few in-between.
Thanks so much for reading, sharing and stopping by!
You know I’m a chronic capturer and sharer of moments with my #365projects. I’ve certainly thought a lot about my motivation and its ramifications in my own life, and even more importantly, my family’s. I take lots of pictures I don’t share, but I likely wouldn’t capture if I were t thinking “is this material.” It’s made me notice my world in a new way, and that feels healthy – especially since my world is the narrow one of a mother stuck at home with small children in wonter!
And I’ve found relief in the 2015 project that allows me to take the camera off myself and explore my reality with picture of those sunsets as well as the words that get stuck in my head.
I’m leaving a daily footprint that would make some people pity me as a creature desperately seeking attention and make others applaud my dedication to process. I’ve grown to love the paradox and live within that tension.
Thanks for enriching this whole discussion, dear Blair.
You nailed it, Marisa. It is a new age paradox. As I sit with your experience, I am realizing even more deeply how sharing helps us enrich the narrative of our lives. And at the same time, it can leave us so vulnerable to the type of narcissism that ultimately creates isolation.
As far as “leaving a daily footprint that would make some people pity me as a creature desperately seeking attention and make others applaud my dedication to process,” your daily posts have never come across as desperate to me. They are a window into a world, one that, as a childless woman, I always appreciate having a private glimpse into.
Thanks for your comments and enrichments as well, Marisa, long lost cuz!
[…] In When a Picture Breeds A Thousand Questions Blair Glaser asks some probing questions about why we’re motivated to capture a sunset and then share it. Blair concludes “I write this post not as a judge, but as a witness: A witness to the changes that are happening in my business, in my brain, in my life, and in the way our culture is shaping these changes.” […]
Grateful I ran across this piece…I love clouds…take pictures of them all the time And sometimes share…what I love is your guide to dig deeper…to witness…and to ask…. Love it! Thank you! Denise
Denise! I’m so glad you ran across it, too. So we could connect again. Thank you! Blair