Monday, 4 May 2020

Picture Post # 54 No Standing Still



'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Thomas Scarborough

Tarawa lagoon, at Antebuka

The world, in the photo, is angled to the left, as if it might slip away.  A boy is suspended between sea and sky. 

Like Zeno's arrow, which is frozen in time and space, and is never able to reach its target, the boy has become a snapshot -- the permanent impression of something transitory. 

In reality, he soon plunges into the water.  In reality, there is no freezing of time and space.  There is no standing still.  There is no Pause button to press as our world hurtles towards the future.

9 comments:

Martin Cohen said...

I'm not madly taken with the image, but the thought is very apt. Yes, photos catch the fleeting moment, the one the philosophers refer to as "reality" yet a reality that is invisibly small, the moment that fades into an endless series of past moments, and calls up an equally infinite series of future ones. What some philosophers make of it all is that the present isn't really there, we have only anticipation of the future, and our recollections of the past. That is, we live in an imaginary universe. So to this picture, did the boy hang there in the minds of at least one or two of the onlookers? Or was he entirely unperceived except by the camera. If so, did the camera CREATE the moment? It certainly did create something quite different from reality, this frozen form of a boy with his rather stylised gesture to the universe…

Keith said...

I view our experience of time as our being aware of ‘change’. I suggest time doesn't flow like Heraclitus’s river or fly like Zeno’s arrow — as these everyday-convenient metaphors have typically depicted time — but as only one ‘now’. Not a sequence of imperceptibly fleeting instances, like individual frames in a movie reel that optically deceive us, but as just one ‘now’. The photo locks in the ‘now’ of the leaping boy. Future and past are illusions, enveloped in that now; in my proposed construct, nothing’s ‘hurtl[ing] toward the future’. All the things and events that compose reality irresistibly undergo change. (The word ‘transitory’, used in the post, is close.) Yet, change is not time, even if the two notions are sometimes conflated. Without this change — of all things and all events — we would not experience the illusion of time. It’s change that makes the apparition of something ‘time-like’ illusorily visible to us. That is, change deceives the mind, making time seem real rather than the artifice it is. This change-centered paradigm framed how I looked at the image.

Tessa den Uyl said...

I like the image, the diagonal from the 'suspended' boy to the girl(?) at the right, who is interested to 'the other side' so to say. And both their right hands lifted up enforcing this diagonal. The boy in green, in the background coming towards us in line with the boy (bottom left) looking slightly away from us, beyond us. All together a dynamic situation in which all directions, wherever one opts, can be explored, with no distinction about a better or worse. The picture gives me a feeling of freedom, that we should go where-ever we move; that there is no centre to pursue, or everything is centred. Somehow the picture , to me, is spoiled from prejudice.

Keith said...

Apparently there’s a more dispiriting dimension to Kiribati’s Tarawa Lagoon — enough so to put Zeno’s arrow on temporary pause. Here’s the link to a brief blurb on the lagoon, reported on by Washington, DC’s National Public Radio: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2010/11/22/131507772/water-water-everywhere-and-not-a-drop-to-swim-in Copy and paste the URL, then scroll down to the second photo, showing, to understate it, a sadly less idyllic take on this body of water. It puts the frozen image of these children’s carefree, joyous leap into the water in perspective. High tide and low tide tellingly revealing two aspects to reality — versions of reality that depend on what’s known and unknown. For what else in life might these dual (partial, subjective) realities be a fitting metaphor?

Martin Cohen said...

Yes, I agree with Tessa, there are some appealing geometrical relationships in the picture. All by chance, I suppose, but isn't that the art of photography, "anticipation"?

Thomas Scarborough said...

Thank you, Martin. We like snapshots. All of our scientific endeavours are based on snapshots. 'What is the variable?' 𝑥 = Yet it is an understanding of the universe which is fundamentally mistaken, and causes us many impasses at many levels. At the level of human existence, we have a fondness for custom, predictability, stability. Yet in reality, it is all changing, all the time.

Thomas Scarborough said...

I wonder whether you knew, Keith, that I lived on Tarawa as a boy. The biggest problem then was the ammunition in the lagoon, which I loved to collect -- and always the debate as to whether the powers should remove their hardware. As best I know, the pollution varies from place to place. Some parts are spotless. But a lagoon is one lagoon.

As a boy, we would visit Bikeman (in your link) for picnics. At that time, Land Rovers would race across the reef not far from Bikeman at low tide -- between Bairiki and Betio -- where now a great channel has been cut through. Personally I think the channel obliterated Bikeman, with the tides now surging through.

Thomas Scarborough said...

Thank you, Tessa. There is a feeling of freedom in the photo. There is a feeling of freedom throughout the islands. It seems to be something that has gone missing in the West.

Keith said...

No, Thomas, I wasn’t aware of your having lived in Tarawa as a boy. I noticed your reference to seeing change in the area, including the lagoon, from then to now — the ‘change’ I had suggested, in my first comment above, being what for convenience we convert to a notion of ‘time’. And even more conveniently convert to metaphorical equivalencies, like flowing rivers and (unidirectional) flying arrows. We conflate the two in everyday activity. That’s understandable, as ‘time’ is something we can break down to handy increments (minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia, and the like) more than we might ‘change’. ‘Entropy’, in a closed system, perhaps being the ultimate in change.

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