07 May 2012

What Do You See?

     On first glance it seems just a lovely picture, a boy in a field of flowers.  And even though the flowers are poppies and the boy is actually working in the field, topping the poppies to prepare them for harvest and eventual processing into opium; the picture itself is still, for me, lovely.

     Maybe I should view it differently.  After all the many cultural and societal strictures against the production and use of narcotics, not to mention the reality that this child probably works all day topping poppies to earn less than one dollar, maybe I should feel offended - even outraged - by this photo.  Yet I don't feel either.  And honestly I consider that personal progress.

     I spent too many years viewing other people and situations with judgement.  Anyone or anything that didn't fit MY view of things surely must have been wrong - deserving of my criticism.  I'd refuse to see any "good" side, or the beauty, or the opportunity for learning or change - refuse to be changed, to even  consider that I could change, that it might be a good thing for me.  I wanted everything and everyone simple - and by simple I meant in agreement with me.

     It took nearly six decades before I learned to appreciate the complexity, the profundity, the chaotic and paradoxical in my own life and self, which led inevitably toward appreciating those same characteristics in the world around me.  I still fight against it, and want to be RIGHT, to have others do what I want them to, to have situations turn how the way I want them to.  But, these days, I catch those thoughts and can (usually) see them for the psychological bloody piles they are.

    So it does seem to be personal progress that I can appreciate the beauty of this picture, the contrast of textures and the intensity of the white of the flowers (very interesting too since white is the absence of color), the composition, the soft focus of the boy's expression - even as my acculturated thinking says "what a terrible thing."  Having opened up more to how little I actually know for sure, how not-in-charge I am of most everything,  how much time - and energy - I use judging and attempting to control; I am better able to connect with the loveliness of the picture AND into an appreciation of the combination of darkness and light inherent there.

     Sure, none of this is a life-altering revelation or epiphany - but from such awarenesses and appreciations as these,  of such ways of seeing, if not differently at least more comprehensively, is a life worth living made.  That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.  What do you see?


  1. I appreciate the aesthetic view of this particular picture, but I also appreciate what opium poppies do for dying people: to bring them relief in their hour of passing. We live in a culture that hammers the "all drugs are bad" notion into our skulls since childhood. But where would we be without morphine and other pharmaceutical painkillers that are derived from the majestic poppy? The Afghan farmers are able to feed their families with this crop. But the distorted perception of street heroin also gives us a skewed picture of the notorious somniferum plant as a curse to humanity; something that should be scorned and destroyed to prevent the end of civilization!
    Fortunately, things aren't that black and white. When we look at the picture of a child collecting opium, we automatically associate this with heroin and terrorism. However, we also forget that if it weren't for opium, morphine wouldn't have been discovered. It's a double-edged sword. Feelings can be so powerful that we often convince ourselves into believing that our first judgments are true, when in fact, they're only subjective observations that fail to perceive the entirety of certain situations which are considered taboo. In this picture, I see flowers of exotic beauty that provide a glimpse of paradise, but if indulged for too long, can unmask the worst kind of hell.

  2. Anonymous - Your reply brought a whole new slant to the conversation. I thank you for that, and appreciate more than you know the passion you clearly have for the topic. You make several points that, though they fly in the face of the CW, resonate with me. The importance of the fruits of this flower as providing relief of suffering cannot be underestimated. The fact of what humans in other parts of the world do to support themselves needs to be always placed before us here in the West, a reminder that we don't, in fact, know shit about the world. Blessings Mary Jo