The important and only vital question is, how much greater, finer, am I than I was yesterday? Have I fulfilled my possibilities, made the most of my potentialities?
In preparing for a recent medical treatment I had to pass a standard assessment of my cognitive state, which included such common questions as, “do you know where you are?” Although my rational faculties are very much intact, it still took me a few seconds to come up with the correct answer to one question: “what day is this?”
I take some pride in the fact that I have designed my life such that on most days I have no real reason to know or care what day of the week it is. The very concept of a seven-day week comes from ancient scripture and has no hold in any natural phenomena, which are the things that govern my own days—the cycles of seasons, the length of a day, weather, geography, natural scents and sounds, qualities of light, etc.
Each year I find myself feeling somewhat stumped when attempting to sum up all that has happened since the last first day of January, being as arbitrary a date to my way of living as most other dates. But I do it anyway, because this time of year possesses certain symbolic meanings for so many others of my species that align well with the moods and thoughts that occupy my own mind on most other days. In doing so I inevitably also become aware of yet another point of pride for me, realizing in hindsight that as different as the year has been from those that preceded it, one thing seems to remain constant and true of every year in my life: it was not boring.
Albert Einstein is sometimes blamed for the expression, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” To his credit, Einstein never actually said it. As any quantum physicist will tell you, doing the same thing over and over enough times, absolutely will yield different results. With this in mind, if the saying was true (and being that existence as we know it is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics) one would have to conclude that every phenomenon in the world is in fact some expression of universal insanity. (Then again, when you think about it this way, perhaps there’s something to it after all.) My point here is that in hindsight, at least in my mind, I seem to be doing pretty much the same things over and over, both in life and in photography, and still the results never seem the same.
Another quip of unknown origin—“twelve significant photographs in a given year is a good crop”—is attributed to Ansel Adams, although in this case it may well be true (if you know this for a fact, please let me know the source). In reviewing my photographic work of the past year, applying the criterion of (personal) significance, I must conclude that my crop falls a bit short of “good.” Certainly, there is no shortage of what lawyers may refer to as “mitigating factors” to explain it, but in truth there is nothing to mitigate. I have come to realize over the years the cyclical nature of artistic productivity and to not be bothered by it, and despite not being as photographically prolific as I’ve been in other years, I can still say with confidence that this past year has been among the most beautiful I have ever experienced. More specifically, those things that have made the year not-boring, despite spanning the gamut from blissful peace to utter misery, have all been profoundly beautiful and life-affirming; and in this context, photographic productivity seems an entirely trivial measure for the worth of a year.
And so, I conclude this arbitrarily denoted year (and decade) feeling grateful and inspired; and if I could wish anything for myself for the New Year, it is only that I’ll be able to say the very same thing when it, too, comes to an end.
Last and certainly not least: my deepest thanks to each of you reading. As I proudly look back on yet another year of living as an artist and desert wanderer, another year of immersing myself in beauty, wonder, and contemplation; there is no question in my mind that I could not have done it without your interest and support.
I wish you a beautiful holiday season and an inspiring New Year.