Thursday, May 28, 2009


Nature Photographer, Point Reyes, California, August 2007.

In a New York Times essay entitled "Happy Like God," the author quotes philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the meaning of happiness:
If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul. (emphases supplied)
Rousseau had this epiphany while floating on a lake, alone, in a small rowing boat. But it's not difficult to imagine experiencing happiness, as pure as the kind he described, while taking pictures.

Consider the man in the picture: alone in a mist-covered pasture with his camera, photographing elk. With every attempt to freeze a fraction of a second, time itself stops for him. He is oblivious to everything outside the range of his tiny viewfinder. The muddy slush on his boots, the bitter cold, the rest of the pretty scenery, the daily drudgery all meld into insignificance. Compared to the thing he is looking at, nothing else matters; the moment of photographing transcends all things. And he is, one can presume, happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment