Flowers in a Garden

I was so sad to hear about the recent attacks in Paris; a historical world centre of decency and reason, suddenly attacked again by forces seeking mindless chaos. A nihilistic degeneration of Islam seems to be responsible and I give my full support to rooting out anyone involved in this, but ultimately we need something more than the usual efforts at fighting this. All humanity must stand together, like never before.

You’d think, with all the looming threats of ecological catastrophe and the unfolding promise of space exploration, humanity would see a reason to band together for the common. Isn’t space exploration something that brings out the very best in our hearts and technologies?

Seen from space, we are after all no different from the flowers in a garden, with varying appearances, but such similar hopes and fears. Sure, our bodies have a lot of regional adaptations due to the geographies of each place, but in today’s modern, climate-controlled world, they mean far less than ever before.

Yet we waste so much time and energy in pointless conflict, rather than in productive co-operation. Despite all our world wars, we still forget the importance of peace and of embracing all our cousins in a reasonable, rational system based on fairness and equality.

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End of the World

Many have been drawn by the Mayan calendar ending this December, with the more sensational commentary reducing this to a possible physical end of the world. Yet the very definition of world need not refer to our physical habitation. There is the other use of the term, which means the human world, the one we make and maintain, though once we live in it, a place that seems just as slid and unchangeable as our natural environment. Yet as we all know, this world can and does change, evolving as we do, after all it is we ourselves who build and maintain it.

In this sense the Mayans may be seen to have a remarkable intuitive wisdom, as that world, as we know it, in the process of a very deep transformation, which is experiencing sudden shifts as we speak. Just staying for the moment with the well-publicised world events that are covered by international media, there has been a revolution of sorts just in this year. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has gained momentum and though the final political-social arrangements are still unclear, we can hope that liberal democracy rises above the temptation to retreat into an ethnocentric, ‘Islamic’ set of dictatorships not too different from what went before.

Meanwhile, the American right-wing, stung by a crushing defeat in the presidential elections, may well never again field a candidate with some of the horrifically prejudiced policies offered. The possibility of an increasingly optimistic and liberal-minded America is increasingly likely. Gay marriage and other civil liberties seem to be receiving more support than ever before and with them a civil-rights oriented ethos we haven’t seen for some time.

Seeing the world more broadly in time, the last few decades have given us a more united Europe ever less likely to erupt in war, the end of the cold war with Russia and the gradual opening up of China, with only a few states such as North Korea still in a state of ideological antagonism with Western democracy. The world may well not be entirely safe, but it does indeed seem safer from such possibilities of total destruction as offered by the cold war’s nuclear stand-off.

Of all of this is interpretation, analysis and possibly just wishful thinking, one can feel a certain hope in the air. That the cruel ages of man, with all their prejudice, exploitation and even slavery are giving way to a more enlightened age, where the rights and value of the individual are held in high regard and the world itself, freed from poisonous extremes of hatred, is a safer place to dwell in. Such a process may well take time and even generations of effort, education and the will to make a better, fairer and kinder world. One can smell catch a whiff of its fragrance in the air, though… Such a kinder world is coming, as we ourselves will soon settle for nothing less, as we evolve within, so will the world we collectively make reflect this.

Big Day Out in the City

Today I decided to keep things simple. Looking forward to a day out in the city taking photos with Ken, I wondered what to take, not wanting it to be a kitchen sink-type operation, where I’d take things just in case I’d want them. I don’t really like using zoom lenses, as despite the convenience and in some cases their great quality, there are just too many options. So I left my trusty Tamron at home. I’m not even sure, when it’s uncalled for, if I really need colour. Getting the colours to match just introduces too much complexity and distracts me from the essence of the scene. Since it would be a day of photography, I wanted to capture people’s expressions, the meaning of their lives in the vast city and experience the phenomena of life myself. I didn’t want to water the experience down with gimmicky lenses or digital trickery. Back to basics, photo-style.

After starting out being (severely) disappointed with the camera on my 3G iPhone, which had about the resolution of a melted blob and a similar inability to autofocus, I ended up loving it despite the limitations, or even because of them. The haziness gave the photos a toy camera effect and being freed from the tension of ‘perfect capture’ helped me to focus on the essence of the scene rather than on the camera capturing it. I loved the ability to take a photo and upload it straight to Facebook and often get a response from my friends within minutes. I liked the angle of view.

Fast forward to the iPhone 4 and now I have the same connectivity, but a sharp, 5mp image, that you can keep for editing later, print, or blog knowing it will look good, or even play around with it on various apps, but still with the delicious limitation of no zoom. Who needs zoom when you have legs? I also found that the angle it offers me, at 35mm in full frame terms, suits me just fine. So, I stepped out into the world with it’s DX equivalent, a little gem known as Nikon’s 24mm f/2.8 prime (see the article for how I hit on that strange length) and boy did I love it!

We decided that Ueno would be a good spot, not too far, not too near. So we headed out into the park, for some park life and the shade of trees. Seeing as Ken was shooting some B&W film, I decided to switch over to monochrome digital, with a simulated yellow filter for a bit more contrast. But I’m a cheat, as it was all going on in RAW, so I could also view the photos in colour if I so desired. Still, just composing in B&W is refreshing and relaxing, freeing me from the complexity of an unnecessarily complex world.

Now for the photos…

It’s a Cat’s Life- We found this incredible, tiger-like cat there, along with his host of admirers.
Buskers

Morning Jazz- Buskers, getting into their thing under the shade of some trees.

Next stop, Ameyayokocho Street.

I ate my sashimi, but I saved some wasabi for you!

Ameyayokocho Street's timeless market sellers.

Fish without supermarkets and imported goodies like tea or nuts without inflated prices.

Some alternative culture. Tokyo now as well as then, (notice the subtle pun on a particular photoblog?)

I was sweltering, it was probably one of the hottest days of the year and even with hat and thermos was glad to make it to the camera shop we were looking for.

Back to the future with this stereoscopic model from the early days of film, something they are still trying to get going in these early days of digital.

A very cute girl who comes from Tohoku and volunteers there. We gave a donation after seeing her photos of helping out there. She is also a musician and it was a delight to meet such a sweet, pure person.

Having had our camera fix for the day, we chilled in Starbucks.

Luckily for us, there was a festival in Ueno that same day! One of the market sellers was good enough to tell us about it. It featured various groups and troupes from Tohoku. I was impressed and moved to see them celebrate the summer months and the wonder of life despite all the hardships up there. I hope things get better there and was happy to support even in this small way.

A Summer Festival

Taiko drums kept the summer rhythm going.

Many generations come out for the festival.

Something more interesting here.

A huge float approaching...

Into the dream…

It wouldn't be much of a summer festival without cheerleaders!

Then dinner- yakitori, salads and drinks out in the open. We met a nice guy and his friend, who is a Leica enthusiast. One day I have to get a lens for mine, hopefully without taking out a small mortgage first! It was good to connect and it all reminded me of my main theme for the day- keep it human, keep it simple and the beauty will reveal itself every day.

 Thanks for viewing!

Towards a New Humanity

It is quite clear to us here that the only solution to the challenges posed by this moment is to press forward with the most important change of all- a change to ourselves. Whilst personal transformation has been a theme for centuries, the potential for humanity to evolve as one has only recently been seen as a possibility. At this point, we hold, it is in fact a necessity for the continued survival of the human race. Our technology has reached a point of no return.

It has reached the point where we either use it to transform our way of interacting with our planet, to make it both post-industrial and harmonious with the ecosystems surrounding us, that we have realised with increasing clarity we are dependent upon- or use it to wipe our sorry asses off the face of the planet before we become a danger to the planets surrounding ours. In this there is a failsafe to nuclear technology; only a peaceful, harmonious society can hope to survive the advent of a nuclear age. One overcome by self-centeredness and blinkered enslavement to special interests will quite simply self-destruct, before it spreads.

Looking at the challenges that face us, we would be well-advised to remember this central and well-designed truism of universe existence. The path to having god-like power is also the path to god-like responsibility and the consideration of others this brings, and in this context I include not only humans, but the rich variety of life with whom we share our planetary existence.

Everything that has happened thus far can be seen as a warning shot, a shot above the bows, fired by no external enemy, but by us, towards us, warning ourselves of the responsibilities to ourselves and the planet we hold. There was once a time to record history, there was once a time to speak of history’s own unfoldment, yet now has come a sudden rush of something that can only be called consciousness, not only the consciousness of a few individuals, but one on a planetary level.

Let us look at the year, look at the calendar and we will see how little time is left, mere moments of this illusion we call time. In these moments, we have to learn new ways, ways in keeping with our enlarged sense of selfhood, fired by our ascendant technology. A world on the verge of discoveries of deep space travel, time travel and on the cusp of computing power that could peer into the very structure of this mathematically-designed universe itself, must awake to itself, must awake to it’s own internal unity; it’s various members being parts of one body, a body that is waking into consciousness of itself and it’s place in the universe.

In many ways, this is the last year before the great beginning. This is a time of great and dramatic change, a sudden unfoldment of evolution, by the end of which former things will be no more. A natural, sustainable world in terms of energy, politics, human inter-relations is the only way forward and it is becoming clearer and clearer all the time. As our dreams, both personal and collective, come closer to fruition, we will all the more strongly reject that which is not in accord with them. For we are not so much being remade by some hypothetical outside force, as remaking ourselves, being ultimately the arbiters of our own destinies, the co-creators of ourselves. A process we are all the more conscious of, as the moment dawns when we can stand upright in mind and heart, as well as merely in bipedal form. A moment in which we will be in touch as never before with who we are, aware as never before of that divine spark burning brightly within us and ready as never before to resume contact with our ancestors, who have cared so lovingly for us for all these years.

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

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