We Are All Products of the Past

The following verse is a courtesy of a dear friend written some years ago and shared with me on a whim who, contrary to me, does not think highly of it :

The terror in the moonlight
Did hide itself in the sour lake
Which hated itself for being sweet
And missed the chance of being noticed
I now believe in living
But that too seems horrifying
With tales of my past fading away in front of me
I am forgetting myself
I wish I could come out
With the hope of living
That will surely be short

Panicking at the failed attempt to grasp onto a has-been version of your present self is an emotion all too familiar to people on a soul searching quest for belonging—the terror in the moonlight that hides itself in the sour lake, a lake whose depths go on stretching with the passage of time; with those recurring bouts of frustration at being incapable of emerging different and  better equipped than that younger self running parallel to the hysteria. Two parallel lines bending under the pressure of an undesired  lack of change only to meet at their point of intersection called hopelessness. While to many, emerging from past experiences, building from the bottom of the pit might be a phase that serves as a closure to their individual experiences, there are greater still who find themselves stuck in this horrible loop of deterioration with no visible end: infinitesimally small to the world, but to their persons a gigantic experience altogether, the analogy extending to a falling drop of rain on our bodies to that of an ant’s.

The anthology of a photography series Looking at the Past by Paulo Canabarro bring to attention precisely what this transition from past into the present means; of how invisible that change can seem over the fading years in our forgetful minds, against how stark a contrast it actually holds when beheld as a disillusionment of the inaccuracy of our fallible human memory. Writers of yore have marveled incessantly at this deception that time plays over all things subject to its cunning, whose ravages are inclusive of the highest snow covered peaks of the Himalayas to the tiny deceased nautilus’s symmetrical shell buried under the sea bed.

From the photography series Looking at the Past, photo by Daccc

In hiding ourselves in the lake of our insecurities, we miss the chance of being noticed by ourselves and by the world at large. The latter lines of the verse describe flawlessly the dilemma of choosing between holding onto the past that threatens to fade away.

The horrifying feeling of being lost, and not the getting lost which Rebecca Solnit talks about in her book which is a voluntary action, a choice we make despite all things considered: when we forget ourselves, forget who we were; something which indirectly shapes who we will be.

From the photography series Looking at the Past, photo by hairyeggg
From the photography series Looking at the Past, photo by jasonepowell

I had once found five times more than a score of photographs I had clicked on a digital camera now in ruins by courtesy of my younger brother, when I must have been twelve years old and we had gone to visit during one summer the beautiful and tranquil hillside of Nainital in Uttrakhand, a valley harboring the vast stretch of a lake surrounded by the mountains, which had formerly been a British hill station. It was on those shimmering waters when we had gone boating on a warm, sunny morning that, as I was sitting there on one end of the ferry staring at the golden surface of the lake in the sunlight, my father had insisted on clicking my picture after I had been through with clicking more than one of him and my brother sitting on the other end. Naturally—in view of how my camera conscious tendencies go—I had severely pleaded with him not to do so, although he refused to listen and quietly snapped a remarkably memorable photograph of me sitting there wrapped in an over-sized flotation jacket with one hand awkwardly placed on its hem while I obediently frowned at the camera lens pointed at me, at my loudly protesting subconscious’ cordial request. And that is one trait I carried with me into my younger self’s future and my present, along with an overpowering wonderment of nature

Sometimes we can trust our inertial tendencies to resist change; sometimes they are the ones we are succumbed to grieving.

From the photography series Looking at the Past, photo by Tinflower

This discovery leads me to believe in a thought I arrived at one afternoon as I watched the sunlight playing with the leaves in the roadside trees and closed shops and faces blurring past my window as I rode in the back of the wagon:

We are all products of the past. 

Lately I have been indulging myself with documenting very unprofessionally my experience through photography and writing in a journal. I write excessively: if it is a few lines that resonated with me, something I learnt from an article or a longer read, I will write them down in my journal, on stray papers or on the back of the book I found it it. In a nutshell, one could call it taking notes of one’s life—the creative benefits of keeping a diary, which old authors and diarists have always so dearly divulged.

It matters not how much it affects us consciously or unconsciously, but how we incorporate the essence and identity that is a culmination of one past arising from others; like the new cells that arise from previous cells —“Omnis cellula e cellula” into the legacy that is our individual experiences

Tattered paperbacks of novels I possess, with the leaves of some rendered golden with time.

We then believe in living, wishing to break free of the shackles of our insecurities and like the moonlight that hides itself in the lake while filled with a hesitant desire to come out and be noticed; we fear the ephemeral length of our lives and so we desperately cling to the hope of living, the yearning to be remembered of a life that is a product of our past…a life which we acknowledge with dread, that we know will surely be short. 


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