The shadow of life

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
~ R.D. Laing

Quite a mouthful that. Try saying it aloud. When I read it today, I immediately thought of shadows. Now, I am not at all sure where the association came from (and has that ever stopped be ruminating ….), but intangible though it was, it sent me searching through my photographs to confirm a deep-seated suspicion that alongside closed doors and flowers behind bars, I also seem to have an obsession of sorts with photographing shadows.

It’s not the objects themselves that interest me, but the way light interacts with them and distorts what might otherwise be a mirrored reflection. Although far less solid and far more ephemeral, it is the shadow that attracts me. This realisation then made me wonder even more because it would seem that much of my working life is spent dealing with tangibles – texts, words, plans, structures , budgets, people – and yet what I find most interesting is the effect they create, the influence they have, their reach.

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel reckons that most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses, and memories. The reach and influence of what we say and do, the shadow of our actions, if you will, can divide the indivisible. So often we have no idea of the signifance of a throw-away comment, a random act, a spontaneous decision. We see what’s solid, what’s real, and all too often fail to notice the shadow that realness creates. And yet, as Martin Luther King would have it, everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

So if in noticing that failing to notice shapes my thoughts and deeds; if I see the shadows that surround my words and ideas; if I accept that everything is a shadow of what I do not see, then might I arrive at a meeting of minds with Frank Lloyd Wright and accept that  the present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope.

While I attempt to figure it all out, I will still appreciate a shadow for what I believe it is – a glimpse of a parallel reality.

5 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    It was a favorite saying of a Mr H. Poirot that ‘one works through darkness towards the light’………..its interesting that western buildings have always sought to maximise the penetration of natural light into their interiors thus reducing the areas of shadow and sometimes creating somewhat bland interiors, whilst in the orient they would embrace shadows upon shadows in their interiors, actively creating interior places that sunlight would never reach. They refer to ‘the magic of shadows’, their traditional buildings atchieve a dreamlike luminescence, a quality of mystery and depth that we rarely see in the west………. such buildings gave them tranquil, atmospheric and quiet spaces, qualities that the west now craves……..perhaps qualities that we would find if we looked in our personnal parallel reality!

    Reply
  2. Bernard Adams
    Bernard Adams says:

    It’s what you do perceive that shapes your thoughts. Some of the above quotations are in the ‘incomprehensible and therefore wise’ category!

    Reply

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