India Discovers the Trickery of Light
I paid an early morning visit to my estranged husband in his Batangas City subdivision.
“Hi Edward! What a beautiful morning”, I said. Fox News was blaring in his living room.
“How can you say that — the whole fucking world’s falling apart”, he grumbled.
The images flashing across his TV screen were completely at odds with what I had just seen with my own eyes. Outside his house was a wonderful morning — a morning of butterflies and bumblebees; a morning of lush, tropical gardens and bright splashes of bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers; a morning of magnificent orchid blooms.
“Edward, why don’t you shut off the TV and look outside your front door. It’s beautiful out there.”
“That’s what you think”, he insisted.
Three years later I still think that I live in a beautiful world. This morning I raged at my partner, Martin, who turned on the TV and invited war, American urban violence and African pestilence into our home while I was eating breakfast.
“Shut that off!” I shouted. Peace and beauty returned to our house.
Last week on my flight from Singapore to Manila, a man sitting in the row behind me coughed for the entire three and a half hour flight. Never have I heard a more savage hacking from human lungs. Sputum swirled all around us. I turned around to see what kind of an asshole gets on an airplane when he’s this sick. A white guy.
The flight crew handed out health quarantine cards. Ah yes, someone on board might be carrying the ebola virus. Maybe the sick guy behind me. I sincerely wished to see him busted at Manila airport and thrown into quarantine where he would be prevented from infecting more innocent travelers or local Filipinos.
We disembarked to find medical personnel lining the corridor, observing us. But looking for what, exactly? Nurses in uniform took our quarantine cards, carefully scanning our faces for signs of ebola. But what exactly does ebola look like?
I kept my eye on the sick white guy. I saw him stand up straighter and smooth down his hair which had been mussed up from the violence of his cough. He walked with full confidence toward the nurses, gave them a big smile and quickly handed over his card, then sped toward the Immigration counters, where he slowed down and resumed coughing with his mouth open and uncovered.
The sickest person on the flight had not even been noticed! Clearly, the nurses hadn’t recognized illness when they stared straight at it. But don’t we all see what we expect to see? A well-dressed white man isn’t what our brain tells us that disease looks like. Likewise, if Fox News and CNN tell us that the world is ugly and violent, then mightn’t we be so busy looking out for muggers and suicide bombers that we walk right past peace and beauty without noticing?
Last year I took an online photography course and was assigned to photograph the exact same location in completely different light. These four shots were taken in my neighborhood. You can see that my neighbor’s house is entirely transformed by the change in light. Bathed in early morning light, the house is golden and beautiful.
Under a flat, overcast sky, it resembles a prison.
A change in light also affects the color and mood of the sea in front of my house. A great photography lesson: light matters.
Life is no different. We all live in exactly the same world, yet some of us see and experience it as a scary, violent place, while others live in beauty and abundance. It really is all the same world — it just looks different, depending on which light we choose to view it through. We create the life we live.
I’m stubborn. I will continue to choose peace and beauty and love.