The Truth as I See It

I’ve grown tired of all the debate over the meaning of life.  Does God exist?  Are we alone?  What’s the point of it all?  Is there a point?

Well I say fooey.  God can hang around or not.   Our universe can be infinite or finite, I don’t care anymore.  The debate has gotten tedious.  (although I must admit I still enjoy the scientific questions).  But when it comes to Truth, capital-T Truth, I believe we are thinking way to hard.

The problem, as I see it, is too many people think truth is an idea, a way of correct living, a description of some unseen plan or revealed afterworld.  Now, I don’t deny any of those may exist, I’m just saying that the Truth, the capital-T Truth is something altogether different.  In fact, those other kinds of truths (I suppose here I’m mostly, though not exclusively, refering to religious truth) I would prefer to call them small ‘t’ truths.  I know I’m offending someone somewhere.  Sorry about that.  Just remember, I’m only one guy, and at the end of this post you’ll see my photo and realize I’m not worth getting upset over.

At any rate, I feel there is a much larger Truth, a much more apprehensible Truth out there.  A Truth that trumps any other kind of truth our imaginations can create.

That Truth is simply the Truth of our existence.  We are alive.  Sometimes it helps to say it outloud and throw in a curse world.  Something like Holy shit we’re alive.  Doesn’t that just blow the socks off you?  Doesn’t that thought make you want to sit down and have a stiff martini?  My god we exist.  Who cares why.  Has anyone ever been in the middle of a dream and suddenly realized it’s a dream?  I have a few times, and not once did I stop in my dream and ponder the meaning of my dream life.  No way buster, I found a ferrari and went for a spin.

Life is the ultimate Truth.  It should go without saying that life is what we live for.  So enjoy some of the lives I have discovered in my few years as an adult.

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Manual workers waiting for a job, any job, to come along.

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The owner of this tea house stopped to chat with me in English and Chinese. Such hospitality. Such great tea.

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A bride on the beach in Lianyun Gang takes a break from her photo session to allow me a quick snapshot.

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Wedding photo accessories. The shoes and ruffles I understand, but a chello?

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In this small cave people come to light incense for their ancestors.

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Workers repairing the inside of a brick burning kiln

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Ah the classroom, an especially obvious Truth for a teacher

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16, 17 years old. Hittin’ the books. I wonder what she thinks about her future?

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Homeless man playing the Erhu in front of a …. bus station I think. He wasn’t very good, but I gave him a few coins for his effort.

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Preparing lunch in Lishui. Seems mostly to be the women who prepare meals, though not so much in restaurants – go figure.

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Suining countryside. Shop owner saying hi. What he sells I’m not sure. Is he weaving mats on the ground? Sun drying wheat stalks? I don’t know.

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I noticed this shrine behind a roadside tourist booth and asked if I could take a picture. This is the owner’s family shrine dedicated to their ancestors.

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Spent fireworks from Spring Festival. No matter where you are, there is always a time to celebrate

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At a sports competition, a group of girls toss a schoolmate into the air as part of a game that had nothing to do with the competition. Competitions here are really low brow.

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The moon. The Chinese really appreciate the moon. They live by its revolutions. They write about it in poetry. It reminds them of home. The moon makes them weep. Oh moon, sweet sweet moon.

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The Chinese have their moon. I have my birds. Sadly this bird is part of the Oregon zoo. Still very beautiful.

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Animal companions. Mine is a cat. Pet me please.

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This is one of the engagement pictures I took for my sister.    Love love love. We Say Yes to Love.

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There is so much truth in this picture. A smile so tight your eyes close, such cheek bones, such bright hair, so many lines arching from the eyes like the attractive field of a magnet. This is TRUTH.

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There’s a simplicity in most children’s faces that I find beautiful. Some might say “kids are so truthful” but I tend to think those people don’t know many kids.  No, what I see is a person emmersed in living.  A child lives to play, lives to eat, lives to touch things and go places and babble on and on even when they can’t speak many words.  In this sense, children are the epitome of Truth.

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It may help to know that I took these pictures during my father in-law’s funeral.  Her expression pierces me to the center. We’re at a funeral and she is holding a basketball and volleyball and looking at me like . . . like she understands perfectly what is at risk.

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When we are older we like to leave little mementos for those we have lost, little notes, wishes, blessings. Like this one, written in Korean, for a grandparent maybe, or a friend who is far away.

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And then suddenly someone we knew is gone, and all that is left is their blurred memory, perhaps similar to this girl drying her hands on a cold towel before going to bed.

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This is the face I see when I remember Shirley, my mother in-law. I remember the lips so thin they were like pink Q-tips. I remember how her eyebrows would raise and make those deep curled creases in her forehead. I remember the small nose, red when she cried, white when tired, still more white when angry (or was it more pink?). I remember the soft fuzzy hair around her cheeks and how the loose skin under her chin would tremble when she felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I remember how soft she felt under my hand. Soft and yielding. Her body, her presence, her eyes as small as sunflower seeds, her removable teeth, those ears and fine hair. Her scalp. Her hips that could fill two chairs. Her perfect roundness. Her fingers not suited for shuffling cards. The existence of her. The Truth of her. I will never be the same.

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Since then I have found it helpful to take a picture of myself in the mirror.  Not out of vanity or anything like that, but just to remind myself that I exist.  This is me, I say.  I look at the long hair, the beard, the brow that seems to bend down around the eyes, the sharp nose like a powerful fulcrum that keeps my mind from snapping. Taking my picture helps me to see the Truth of me.  Not my importance, not my value, not whether I am loved or not. Simply the Truth of my existence.  I am, I repeat to myself, I am I am….I still am.

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5 thoughts on “The Truth as I See It

  1. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. It is beautiful. ‘I am, I still am’ and I’m glad that you are. Love you Ry!

  2. Ryan: I love your photos. Each seems to get at some essential humanity. The photo-as-Truth (uppercase “T”) sound very Zen-like. Your Truth seems grounded in human truths, emotion, sensuality. Is there no Truth in the mountain? What of the Truth of the moon, if it were not seen by you?

    Three things for you:
    a) I just returned from South Africa. If you’d like to see some photos, send me your email address and I will invite you to Snapfish. You can still reach me at librariuskenn@hotmail.com
    b) There’s some tiny (really, really tiny) chance that I could be in Beijing, possibly in May. Do you ever get to Beijing?
    c) I live in San Diego now.

    Cheers,
    Kenn Wessel

  3. Your unique eye. Your choices.
    The audacity to get up close to what you photograph.
    Asking before you snap the shutter, sometimes.
    Knowing “I may never pass this way again…”
    The willingness to get off the horse and say , “I may look like a foreigner…” and you say it in Chinese.

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