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Life is NOT a Collectible

Receiving vs Accumulating

“Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs." - Susan Sontag

I once sat next to a lovely older couple on an airplane. They were very dignified, well dressed, full of manners and properness.

After takeoff, and the captain had turned off the seat belt sign, they reached into bag they had stowed under the seat and pulled out several large photo albums. (This was back in the 80's before smart phones with cameras.) In another bag they had a good amount of photo envelopes filled with recently developed pictures and they set to work, lovingly and meticulously putting all the photos into the albums.

I couldn't help but notice that all of the pictures were the same. All the pictures were of them, standing in front of the sign announcing the important location they were visiting; Yosemite Valley, the Redwood Forests, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, plus numerous others from around the West.


For each location there were three pictures. One with him standing in front of the sign, one with here standing in front of the sign and one with both of them standing in front of the sign. In each they were immaculately dressed. They were obviously not hiking on any trails.


I couldn't help but wonder if they had actually experienced the any of those at all. Maybe they did, of course there is no way I could know, but fast forward 30 or 40 years and they don't seem as disconnected as they did to me at the time.


I have witnessed so many events and beautiful scenes and noticed all the people who immediately pull out their phones to attempt to capture it.



The photographer pulled out his camera to try to get a candid shot of a Native American in full dress.

"You won't be able to take my picture," the old native said.

"Why?" asked the photographer, "Will it steal your spirit?"

"No," replied the smiling fellow, "Your lens cap is still on."


There has been a kind of a universal trance we have gotten ourselves into where we think we can actually capture our experience. Life is like smoke. You can't grab it. You can't hold it. "You can't reproduce it. This moment is like none other. The image bits in your phone may spark a memory, but it will hold none of the original impact of the experience itself. And, trying to collect experiences actually detracts from having them.


I think what we really want is to be able to share our experiences. I know, that the only time I take a picture, in fact, the only time I even think about it, is when I want to share that moment with someone who matters to me. It is a means of touching someone that you can't touch any way else.

What we really long for is not the accumulation of memories but genuine human connection. We long to come out of our trance of disconnection rather than just making photo albums of the dream.


We humans need each other. That need for each other is not an illusion but, a direct manifestation of our inherent oneness. The Being that we all share. When you fully experience something of the mysterious wonder that is life, it penetrates you. You receive it into your heart and soul.


From there it becomes a shared experience because it has become a part of you. You become its ambassador, its very presence. And that presence will touch others and bring you into a level of connection that not iPhone or Android could possible capture.


The next time you see something that touches your soul, receive it. let it penetrate you. That will be the life and light that then will emanate from you.


God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah"! -Joseph Campbell


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