The shutter clicks and pops open for 1/400 of a second. It opens to an aperture of 7.1, its a bright day and the fire they’re using to scorch away the hair makes it yet brighter. I snap a few more pictures with lines and framing in mind. The men are focused on their work and don’t seem to mind the stranger hovering around the periphery. I can smell the hair burning away and the smell of burnt skin as the edges of the gutting wound is singed. I remember the dust, the welcoming smiles, the way they lifted my gift of beetle nut and tobacco in appreciation. It is clear in my mind. The pictures remember too, they are etched into the reflective surface of a little spinning disk. They exist in some physical sense, but my memory is more physical, more real. Can I show my memory to the people that wish to experience it? Can I find a way to show the people who sit in comfortable chairs what a life of chairlessness looks like? The error message on my computer every time I plug in the hard drive says “No, its just for you now.”
I’m sure there is some explanation to the message that appears on my screen. It’s some kind of corruption of data or some software misspelling but when I see the message I see a barrier between me and the hundred thousand sensations I captured some fragment of. I see the barrier between my clearest hope of expressing my experiences. I see rain on the kindling of thousands of fires waiting to be sparked back to life.
I don’t know how to value something like this.
Do I base it on time spent gather these pictures?
Do I think about emotional value?
Do I base it on possible financial value?
It is certainly a strange thing to never doubt something and than to have an error message remind me what I care about. I don’t notice loss of things I don’t value. The other day I picked up my phone and it still worked, I didn’t notice anything. I didn’t pause in thanks, regret or any emotion. I put my phone down after reading a mundane message without a pause of any kind. If tomorrow I pick up my phone and it refuses to turn on I will notice.
My pictures have more of my attention right now than they did a week ago, I appreciate them more. If the point of life is to learn to appreciate what I have, not what I could have, than loss might be the clearest teacher. I want to listen to this loss as a sincere appreciation, as real gratitude. I really do think that my life is primarily about learning to appreciate what I have. I don’t think its about getting what I want, or the development of skills that make me more efficient at getting where I want to be. I have seen too many lives full of rich comfort, beauty and relationship that instead chose to be lived in suspicion, stress and lack. If you have an apple and only an apple do you think about the cheese that could go well with the apple or do you think about the crisp taste of your apple?
My pictures are valuable to me. I would have told you that a week ago if you had asked, but I would not have told you if you did not ask. I’m telling you that right now because I am acutely aware of their value. Lately I have been asking myself about how I asses the value of things, how do I know what is most important to me. This is probably the lesson I was asking for.
Do I appreciate my pictures because they are gone? or at least very hard to retrieve.
Or am I just now being reminded that I appreciate them?
And either way, how do I know the value of things in my life or not in my life before I have and lose them? To be honest I think the value of my pictures changed when I received that error message. I don’t think I can know what something is worth to me in any future time because between now and then it may change many times. I do appreciate my pictures more because they are gone. I reassessed their value and found that it had changed. Their are many other ways it could have changed but having it become so hard to access my pictures has actually upped the value considerably.
Now I must ask, does this mean that my pictures are worth more to me now? not if I could access them but are they actually worth more out of my reach? Is it actually better to lose something if it causes me to gain a higher appreciation for it and most likely my future pictures? Can losing something have a higher reward in my life than having that same thing?
I can still taste the cup of coffee that I had this morning, the flavor is infused into the tissue of my mouth. Its rich, comforting smell can be brought back to mind by running my tongue along the sides and roof of my mouth. Whether or not I enjoyed the actual cup of coffee while I was drinking it I still have a choice in front of me. Can I find a way to enjoy the afterlife of that cup of coffee as much as the life?
That’s exactly what I’m choosing. To enjoy, to appreciate, to love it now.
I want to choose the moment whichever part of the ebb and flow I’m in. The excitement of wanting coffee, the warmth of the cup in my hands, the comfort of the nostalgic flavor, and the faint after tones once the cup is empty.