Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Picturing too much of a good thing

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Picturing too much of a good thing

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I just got back from getting some photos at CVS. one of those 21st century everyday marvels--you take the memory card into the store, slip it into the right slot, touch the screen a few times and voila--a CD, prints, whatever. OK.

It was nice to have the photos. They were from a family-centric weekend and everyone looked cute. And yet...and yet....

I got the photos home, put them on the kitchen counter. right near the other photos that have yet to find a home in frames, in books.

And I thought how, although we can get our photos in just a few minutes, whiz pictures back and forth through thin air just to show someone a flower or ask, “Do you think I should wear this,” something’s been lost here. I grew up when dinosaurs roamed the earth and a visit to Grandma often involved snuggling next to her and carefully turning the pages of the photo album.

I remember the interminable wait for pictures to be ready, picking them up and opening the envelope as you left the store to see what you had. Yes, I remember overexposures, underexposures, blank, blank, blank of mistakes, photos of thumbs. But I remember something else, too: pictures used to be shall I put this..more special.

Slavoj Zizek, a professor of philosophy, has posited that, among the fundamental conditions for happiness is “enough, but not too much.” A minor deprivation from time to time--the book you can’t wait to read is on backorder, you’re on a waiting list for the college or Hermes bag of your choice, the farm stand is out of pea tendrils. Or there’s almost enough hot water, not quite enough chocolate ice cream (family hold back). Just enough to make you not accept something mindlessly, to realize, “Oh, good--it’s here.” I think he’s on to something important and it may be related to the photo counter at CVS.

We’re used to having our photos--like so much else--right away. A ten-minute wait: bummer. Ready right away: oh, ok. No big deal either way. We’ll have our photos to take home in a couple of minutes. We won’t need to bother looking at them because we just saw them. No surprises.

I’m talking about the majority of what we take, not the wedding photos, the revelations, the true moments-justes--the others....what’s the big deal? We take them, we send them. They’re convenient, we depend on them. But do we get excited about them any more? Are they fun? Do they surprise us? Do they delight us?

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