Daily Archives: August 19, 2004

Echoes

(I found this post tucked away in a file, forgotten until I began cleaning things out. It was written partially as an e-mail to a new teacher. It’s as important now as it was when it was written, I should make some sort of note to re-read it often.)

It’s often said that “those who don’t know, teach” but I’ve discovered that what it should say is “those who know, teach, then discover that they didn’t know things as well as they’d thought, and proceed to reinterpret their lives and learn, learn, learn.”

The odd thing is as a spiritual teacher, you’re still further ahead than those you teach. Life’s an ever-unwinding path; you’ve just seen a bit more of it than your students have.

Spiritual teachers go through frequent crises of self-worth: how can I teach others if I know so little myself? It’s a sign of humility, which is a good thing, I suppose. At the same time, one has to remember that the definition of a mentor or guide involves the idea that they’ve been where the student is now, and so are in a position to offer advice, a helping hand, or valuable information. It’s kind of like following someone through a forest, and seeing that they’ve left signs of their passing in disturbed greenery, a footprint here and there; and every so often, there’s a shout back from ahead that tells you to watch out for that root you’re about to trip over.

They will ask questions; you will not know the answers. They will become frustrated; you will become angry. They won’t get it; you will despair.

But you owe it to your own past teachers, whether they knew they were teaching you or not, to keep on.

Steal My Soul

I have a photo shoot scheduled for today, and I’m trying to work myself up to it.

I detest photo sessions. I feel self-conscious, angry, annoyed, I don’t know what to do or how to sit, or what to wear, and I always hate the results. I’d like to blame it on a Bad Photo Experience as a child, but school pictures were never disastrous events. The only family portrait we ever had taken was the afternoon after I had dental work done, so one side of my mouth is swollen and I’m not smiling, but even that photo session wasn’t bad.

My father is an excellent amateur photographer, and he used to bring back stunningly beautiful slides taken of the tundra environments up north, shots of caribou, tiny flowers on lichen on wind-scoured rock, clouds. I was given a camera when I was about seven, and I took pictures because my father and his father did as well. I don’t precisely remember when I came to the realisation that pictures don’t matter to me. It might have been after some sort of deeply moving experience where I later looked at the photos taken at the time and said, no, this isn’t it; this isn’t what happened; this is hollow.

There is a picture of me in my head that actual photographs never reflect. I’ve cried when I’ve seen some pictures of me that others seem to like. I’ve also stared at some pictures for ages, trying to suss out what it is about photographs that makes me hate them so. I hate approximately ninety-four percent of all pictures of me. Others seem to think they’re fine, sometimes even great shots of me. No one I’ve ever spoken to about this understands how these photographs hurt me on some inexplicable, deeply felt level.

HRH has used several explanations for why I dislike pictures: cold light, flat image, lack of life to add the spirit to the physical representation. Blah blah blah. Artist talk.

The only photographs of me that I’ve ever loved immediately are our wedding pictures. Maybe it was the professional photographer with personality. Maybe the love and light of the day, and my spirit shining stronger than it does on an average day triumphs over the cold 2D images. Who knows?

All I know is that I hate photo sessions, I usually hate the results, and today at noon I have one. We’re using a digital camera, so we can wipe the ones I hate out of existence right away. I’m working with an amateur photographer whose work I’ve seen and enjoyed, who has also worked as an actor and director, so he’ll be able to direct my positions and expressions. I hope to all the gods he has patience with me, because I won’t.

Cameras scare me. And that truth makes me angry, because I don’t know how to deal with it.