Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jumbled in a box

A recent article by Virginia Heffernan, who blogs on digital culture for the NY Times, explains how much better Google could have done in putting up the archives of Life magazine. There is always someone like that watching, waiting for you to finish so they can tell you what you did wrong.

Heffernan is a very good critic, and of course, the world has a real need for critics in many forms, teachers and editors, for instance. I have had both of those jobs myself, and I can tell you that correcting other people is no way to win the Miss Congeniality award.

But I digress (which could be the name of this blog, actually). What caught my attention was Heffernan's statement: "My least favorite way to see photos is the way I keep mine: jumbled in a box." She is referring to the way Google threw the whole Life archive out there for you to rummage through helplessly before calling to arrange for a dumpster.

The image called vividly to my mind the box buried in my closet and, I understand, in many other people's, too. The box that calls out in this faint, hopeless voice as you hurry past, Organize me. The volume is about to turn up on voices like that as spring comes, bringing the restless urge to empty the junk drawer on the dining room table and then run out and buy a Golden Wings azalea. Then too, there's always the larger, more intractable mess of life itself and of Wun. who is frequently tempted to start another diet as the weather warms up.

Today, everyone had bad hair, something about the weather or the wierd energy of winter dying while spring holds back. But today's photo is not a picture of bad hair. It's sedge grass, which grows that way, not in a nice neat carpet, and people pay money for specimens like this. This is not my photo; my very nice photo of grass is somewhere in that box of slides.

I admire grass, and trees and cats, and the sky for that matter, for they share one wonderful trait - they never question what they are. I maintain this makes it well worthwhile to have a much smaller brain, or none, and the limited imagination that comes with that. I can't imagine sedge grass saying, "I didn't ask for this triangular stem. Anyway, who wants to grow at the edge of a [expletive] wetlands? You can have it!"

No, if it could speak, the sedge grass would be saying, "I am absolutely perfect the way I am." It likes its hair natural.

One of my Zen teachers used to say emphatically in talks, "You are enough. You are okay. Now, get to work." Well, that's the challenge of being human, you can work on yourself. You can even work on working on yourself while understanding that you're perfectly alright the way you are. Just grow, like sedge grass, which follows its own pattern.

I like the idea. There is not enough literature starring vegetation, and look what grass could teach us. No "get to work" there. Just bask in the sun, drink in the nourishment, sink your roots in your particular soil. No problems with want/don't want. I doubt that that the grass ever wonders whether it might not be more fun to be a frog. All day, every day, it's recess.

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