Psychedelic dinnerware

This is what you might call a blast from the past. Something strange is going on with my “old” blog: after over three years of faithful service, the old gray blog went white yesterday afternoon: the proverbial blank page. Over three years of old posts are still there on my host server…but you can’t see them via any browser. I’ve attained, it seems, invisibility, and it isn’t nearly as fun as the super-hero fantasies we all presumably had as children.

While I’m trying to figure out what caused my ancient installation of Movable Type to suddenly go awry, I’m testing the waters here at WordPress. After more than three years of the same old blog template (and an ancient MT installation that took forever to load in IE), I’m thinking a new blog-home might be in the cards. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d resurrect the above image from last week’s trip to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) as my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Futuristic. Below, by way of a flashback, is the original post that accompanied this image: proof that my posts do still exist in cyberspace, albeit invisibly.

Ad infinitum

Sometimes an almost-daily photo-blogger needs a little help looking at the same old world in a new way. I’ve been blogging for over three years, and for most of that time I’ve posted pictures. Now that I’ve walked the streets of Keene, etc. with a camera for over three years, I sometimes wonder where, when, and how I’ll run out of images. As a Zen Buddhist, I truly believe that each moment is new and unique…and yet as a writer/photographer, I sometimes question whether there really is something new to see and say after all this time spent seeing and saying.

Whenever you’re questioning the Universe’s creative power, it can be helpful to visit a museum, if for no other reason than to play with artsy toys. On Saturday, Leslee, a mutual friend, and I went to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art to enjoy a few mind-altering hours of art. Leslee’s already posted her account of our visit along with some stunning architectural pictures of the ICA’s new waterfront building: a high-brow version of our gallery hop. My perspective on an artful afternoon is much more childlike, focusing (literally) on a series of kaleidoscopic images I shot in the ICA gift-shop with a multi-faceted looking glass–a $8.95 toy intended for children–held over my camera lens.

When you look at the world through an insect’s kaleidoscope eye, what you see is reality refracted and repeated ad infinitum. The umbrellas and handbags I saw in the ICA gift-shop were no different from ones I might browse elsewhere…but when viewed through a multi-faceted lens, these ordinary shopwares seem alien and exotic, something much more exciting than the usual stuff of rainy days and Mondays.

In my writing classes, I try to convince my students that revision is actually the art of re-seeing…so what if they took that language literally, looking at their words and worlds with an eye toward double- and triple-vision? Repeated ad infinitum, literary themes become tiresome and trite…but when even the most ordinary colors and shapes are repeated through a refracting lens, the result seems magical and even life-transforming. Having viewed the world kaleidoscopically, is it possible to view it normally ever again?

If you think of a blog as being a kind of lens, then each almost-daily post can serve as a facet. Over time and under the influence of light, each almost-daily post reflects a shard or sliver of time repeated toward infinity. In more than three years of blogging, how many times have I said roughly the same thing over and over again, varying each incantation of the Same Old Truths only slightly? A Zen Master friend, himself a rehabilitated college professor, once told me that all an academic needs to make a career is one good idea: the rest is just reiteration. Perhaps writing in a blog–like publishing in academe–is like speaking with a stutter, each moment tripping the tongue like a stammered syllable. Like a skipping record, any given writer says the same th-, th-, thing time and again until it rings true: revision ad vertitum.

This issue of peat and repeat–the manner in which time accrues like bog moss, each layer pressing the preceding into a nutrient-rich mass of fertility and decay–is ripe for me because of some literary re-visiting I’ve been doing. In response to the qarrtsiluni theme “Greatest Blog Hits,” I submitted this time-ripened post to the cause. How strange it is to open one’s blog like a time-capsule, re-visiting a particularly poignant moment and viewing it through an aesthetic, art-appreciative lens. The “me” who reads that post today is not the “me” who wrote it: even the many reflections of me, some of them refracted into kaleiscopic shards themselves, no longer look like the “me” I see in my mind’s eye. Can it be that retrospection itself is a distorting lens? Should our backwards-looking Mind’s Eye be inscribed with a warning: events viewed through his mirror may appear larger than they actually are?

As both a writer and photographer, I’m not convinced there’s anything new under the sun…but I try to convince myself that today’s lens on the Same Old Stuff is somehow different from yesterday’s (or last year’s) tired perspective. Sometimes it takes looking through a bug-eyed plastic bubble to re-define your perspective, or sometimes it simply requires looking back. Why take the time to visit and re-visit the gallery of images that is one’s Life: isn’t a single, cursory take enough for the ages? Blogging, like a bug-eyed lens, allows a writer to see the same world anew, today’s refraction being sometimes sharper, sometimes blurrier, than the images preceding it. Over time, an oft-observing eye might come to see the world more clearly and more true; over time, an oft-observing eye might come to appreciate life and its multi-facets ad infinitum.

    Click here for more kaleidoscopic images from inside the ICA gift-shop. Click here for other “Greatest Blog Hits” on qarrtsiluni, an online literary magazine which itself is ripening into its second year of existence. If you’re interested in contributing your own “Greatest Blog Hit” to the qarrtsiluni queue, you can find submission guidelines here. Enjoy!