Cuzco: World in Microcosm & essay

So….here we are. In life. But it passes us by. We barely notice it. But most of all….we barely notice – the people in it. The people we see in life – do we really see them? These people seem to go by in a blurrrrrr. Think about the last time you went out for a walk. Anywhere – the corner shop, the supermarket, the park, work – anything. Try and recall the people you saw on your way there…

You can’t – right. Unless, it’s the familiar woman at the till, or the man in the corner shop that you visit regularly. But even when you were walking, you didn’t pay attention to the people that you saw.

Every one of us, is a universe. Every one of us is a world entire. Every person you see is another you – not exactly ‘like’ you, but with the same scope and scale of life. A person like you with hopes, and dreams and troubles and woes. It’s hard to comprehend right? A single life – your life – is so vast and full – how can one possibly get to the bottom of another life? Or a dozen lives for that matter. Or a million, a billion lives – pick any number you want! It don’t matter. A life is a universe entire, and multiplying lives does not make it any easier or vaster.

For example look at the picture of the woman with the mobile cigarette stall around her neck. Her life is a universe entire – and it’s so different to mine and probably yours too. What is her life like? I’m not going to tell you, but I am hoping the picture say’s something about her life and helps you imagine it. And what about the two women (mother and daughter) on the steps? What is the old woman thinking? Is she happy or sad? I don’t know. For all I know the look on her face could be that of contentment and not sadness. But it’s a life nonetheless – captured. A moment captured.

These photo’s make me sad. I see around me, the hustle and bustle and struggles of different lives – and I ask myself – why?

Tonight, on my way to dinner, sitting on the pavement, an old lady I saw – with a scarf full of sweets in front of her – sweets for sale. And on her lap was a bundle wrapped, with a child in it, sleeping. Imagine! An old woman (60 – 80 years old), and she; in order to survive, has to resort to selling sweets, on the pavement! Do you not see how terrible this is? I walked pass her, ignoring her entreaties. And then I walked back and gave her 20 soles. Twenty soles is probably what she would earn in a day. And I just gave it to her in one gesture, or moment of something. I don’t know. I couldn’t help it.

The words of a philosopher come to mind: Arthur Schopenhauer. A cantankerous, moody and misanthropic German thinker! Anyway, he once asked himself this question: What is a morally good act? He wanted to understand how one could define a ‘good’ action. His answer was that a good act, a truly moral act, is an act whose motivation stems from simple unselfish loving kindness. Nothing else.

It’s important to differentiate the motive from the action itself. For example, two men might both give money to a charity. The action in both cases is the same. But are they both moral and good acts? So we have to ask the question what is the motive of these two men? Well, one man may be motivated by the belief, that if he does good, he will gain a place in heaven. God will be happy with him, or society will see his action, and speak well of him. Such a man – though his action benefits another – is motivated by self interest. His action is motivated by personal selfish reasons and such an action is not truly morally good. His really doing it for himself! Another man gives money to charity but he is motivated by a deep seated feeling of affection and loving kindness for the people he is helping. He really cares. He is not motivated by selfish, self interested reasons. He doesn’t care whether people know what he did and whether they say good things about him or whether god will be happy with his action. He doesn’t even care whether he feels good about himself.

Schopenhauer didn’t stop there. He then asked – why?

Why would this man be motivated by this feeling of affection and loving kindness? Where does this feeling come from?

Schopenhauer’s answer: we all live in our own separate bodies. My skin is mine, my bones are mine, my leg’s are mine, my stomach is mine, my brain and taste-buds and tongue and sex organs are mine. And yours are yours! Therefore, my pleasures and sufferings are mine, and your pleasures and sufferings belong to you. I do not partake in your pleasures and sufferings to the same extent as you! And you mine!

But – if somehow, I think away that separation between me and you, if somehow that separation between me and you is lessened, such that your sufferings also become my sufferings – than I will feel pity for you when you suffer, and I will feel your woes and troubles, as if they were my woes and troubles. And similarly, I will feel truly happy for you and happy myself when good things happen to you. If I do that, if I feel such a thing, than I will act out of pure loving unselfish kindness towards you. The separation between people – for such a person – is much less. Such a person has intense feelings of brotherhood with mankind, for people. For such a person, the sufferings of an old woman, are his own sufferings.

Am I such a person? Oh no! Not even close!

But there are moments, when we all feel – for an instant – this deep feeling of unselfish loving kindness and affection for people we don’t know. And when we feel this, we are moved to acts of charity, not in keeping with our ‘normal’ selves. The feeling never stays though. We revert back into our own bodies – separate – individualistic – selfish – self interested – not caring very much.

These photo’s represent snapshots of my feelings – of loving kindness.

And every time I look at these pictures, those feelings – I felt in those moments – are rekindled. That is the beauty of photography.

To rekindle such moments.

To rekindle such feelings.

[at 2 mins, 33 secs…it begins…]

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