Debt and the Photograph
by Laura Swindon-Ross
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I have this theory.
It’s to do with palaces of debt and the not-so-humble photograph.
It often seems like, in today’s society, that we feel we don’t exist, unless we have a mirror we carry round in front of us, to make us visible, not only to others, but to ourselves. This mirror might be in the form of language (twitter, twitter – here’s what I think--), social networking sites (here’s what I look like when I think/work/play/relax), or simply in the greater face that we present to the world (here’s my house, my car, photos of the holiday I took last month). Increasingly it seems, as a species, we feel we don’t exist, unless our very existence is recorded every minute of every day, for someone – even if that someone is only ourselves, to see. Now, what does this tell us about the way we are, the way we are growing to be?
This rather sad little fact of living in our own mirage of self-reflexive fame, a sort of personal guarantee of reality (“I see myself, therefore I am”) reflects a greater concern and indeed reality, of private pain. It also costs. In order to live our lives vicariously, through ourselves as we construct that public book, that overt, highly contrived, ongoing reference to ourselves, it seems we cannot resist the temptation to prop ourselves up with money. We preen, we screen, we dream: all of which costs money. That fancy outfit, that new car, that expensive smile, that wonderful house – they all cost money, and money feeds the photograph. The trouble is, the photograph doesn’t last. It fades, it dates, it ages, and soon it needs replacing, soon that photograph requires the input of more money. For the ego to live in the public eye, it requires expense, but what is the real cost of this purported photograph? Let me ask you this – would Jesus have insisted on a photo of himself feeding the five thousand? A good head shot, perhaps, of him preaching his Sermon on the Mount? Video-coverage, curing the blind man in Bethsaida, the paralytic at Capernaum? Think about it. We don’t need to live our lives publicly, glamorously, ego-compliantly, in the view of the precarious mirror. The mirror has two faces: it may tell the truth, but it may also lie. The real life is lived inside of ourselves, quietly, attending to the soul; the real life is the life which gives and affords those things that money, more often than not, just can’t buy.
So next time you pose for that photo, take a little time to think about the bigger picture. What is it that photo is really saying? What is its real cost? Is the proof of happiness, love, of human life even, measured by the photo – or rather, does the photo measure you? Live life more on the inside, and save your money, contribute a little to the reduction of that unsated palace of unconscionable debt not only of money, but of the state of the human soul. What would Jesus do? Take some time to think about it. I think deep inside ourselves, we know.
© Laura Swindon-Ross
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