the sudden stillness of deep interconnectedness
Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters.
When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters.
But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest.
For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
– Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin in The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts
I am, by training and profession, a physicist, specializing in the modeling of complex adaptive systems (with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics). However, both by temperament and inner muse, I am a photographer, and have been one for far longer than my Ph.D. gives me any right to claim an ownership by physics. Photography became a life-long pursuit for me the instant my parents gave me a Polaroid instamatic camera for my 10th birthday. I have been studying the mysterious relationship between inner experiences and outer realities ever since.
A few years ago, I was asked to give a talk on the relationship between physics and photography. To me, the two are deeply entwined in a way that first ascribes, then, ultimately, transcends all distinctions between duality and nonduality.
Consider a stream of water and how the one’s “eye/I” may be drawn to take a picture. At first – when “…waters are waters… ” – an older, Newtonian, physics helps guide our eyes to see “things” as things. We are objective observers, emphatically, and unapologetically, outside the stream.
Next – when “…waters are not waters…” – modern quantum physics teaches us that things are not what they seem, but are built of other, intangible, elemental forms. “Seeing” becomes more of a dance between observer and observed. As photographers, we look for what is behind the thing: light, color, texture, and patterns. We place our camera on a canoe and try to steer our way down the stream.
Finally – when waters are once again waters – we become the stream. As we forget about things, categories, and boundaries, the distinction between observed and observer begins to vanish. Eventually, even the camera itself becomes wholly superfluous.
That which you are seeking is doing the seeking.
– St. Francis of Assissi
My creative process is very simple. I take pictures of what calms my soul. There may be other, more descriptive or poetic words that may be used to define the “pattern” that connects my images, but the simplest meta-pattern is this: I take snapshots of moments in time and space in which a peace washes gently over me, and during which I sense a deep interconnectedness between my soul and the world. Not Cartier-Bresson’s “Decisive Moment,” but rather a Sudden Stillness.
– Andy Ilachinski
Although contemporary neuroscientists study “synesthesia” — the overlap and blending of the senses—as though it were a rare or pathological experience to which only certain persons are prone (those who report “seeing sounds,” “hearing colors,” and the like), our primordial, preconceptual experience, as Merleau-Ponty makes evident, is inherently synesthetic. The intertwining of sensory modalities seems unusual to us only to the extent that we have become estranged from our direct experience (and hence from our primordial contact with the entities and elements that surround us.)
– Andy Ilachinski, from a blog post: Synesthetic Noetics: Cognition vs. Intuition
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Images and text © copyright Andy Ilachinski
Andy’s blog is a rich resource of writing on themes that resonate throughout this site. A browse there is highly recommended: tao of digital photography
Website: Sudden Stillness