Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

2012: A Blank Slate?

Shit Happens

One of my favorite newspaper writers is a guy named Craig Wilson.  He may do other things as well, but my exposure to him comes from the weekly article he does for USA Today.  It’s probably fair to say that I like him because I nearly always agree with him (I suppose that’s pretty much true for everybody, huh?).  Up until last week’s column, anyway.  On that occasion, we parted company a bit.

Why?  Well, because he said that each new year was like a “blank slate”.  “The future”, he said, “was hope”.

I can’t argue with the “hope” part, I guess.  Even I’m not that cynical.  But I don’t subscribe to the “blank slate” thought.  The only thing I know of that’s new about 2012 is the fresh calendar hanging on my wall.  Otherwise we’re looking at all the same old stuff.

I suppose Craig Wilson might have been pulling our collective leg.  He’s certainly not above doing the tongue – in – cheek thing.  But I think he was being at least partly serious.  When he was talking about the virtues of not looking back, for example, he even took a shot at those of us who like to make photographs while on the road.

“I’m so good at not looking back that I can go on vacation and take no pictures.  None.  Friends always ask to see the photos from a trip, and I always proudly say there aren’t any”.

Blasphemy.  How the heck can you travel hundreds or thousands of miles sans camera?  It’d be like going into a restaurant and just looking at the menu.  You don’t have to eat anything – just read the menu and try to remember what it said.  Exploring Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona without a camera and tripod?  What’s the point?  Well, OK.  There is a point.  It would still be worth it.  But oh so much better with the camera.

No, 2012 isn’t a “blank slate”.  As Shakespeare said in The Tempest, “what’s past is prologue”.  You can’t define today – or tomorrow – without yesterday.  Everything is a continuation.  We may not be able to predict specific events, but we can predict general behaviors.  What we’ve done before we’ll do again.  And that’s the scary part.  We just keep making the same stupid mistakes.  As individuals and as a society.  Humans are creatures of habit.  If we screwed up last year, the chances are very good that we’ll do it again this year.

I think that’s why science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once said:

” I don’t try to describe the future.  I try to prevent it”.


4 Responses to “2012: A Blank Slate?”

  1. Earl

    I wouldn’t want a “blank slate” but it would be nice if we could keep the good things while tossing out the bad at the beginning of each year, but life’s not like that. If you were a convicted felon in 2011 you’re still one in 2012 and if you’re a member of Congress…oh wait, I guess that’s a little redundant. 😉

    Our deeds and actions has consequences, some which last a life time, but hopefully we can learn from mistakes and make incremental improvements as we move forward. Hope, certainly, but no blank slate.

    Great photo, Paul. When I was a small boy we use to visit my grandfather on his old farm and he had an outhouse much like this for his day-to-day use — it was what I used too when we visited. Great b&w effects on this photo. It really brings out the details and tones — makes even a “sh*&ter” look pretty.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used an outhouse. The damn things scared the hell out of me. When I was a kid and forced to use one, I always worried that the wooden seat / bench would break and I’d fall into a deep, dark, smelly hole. Or that there was something spooky down there. A little too much imagination, maybe?

      “Incremental improvements”. I’d really like to believe that. And you do see it from time to time. But, in my opinion, not nearly often enough to reach any kind of tipping point. With the advent of the Super Pacs in politics, our lives here in this country aren’t likely to get any better. Money talks. Always has, always will. But now it’s the only voice in town. That’s why my wife and I “skip town” for a few weeks every now and then and avoid TV and newspapers. Silence is still golden.

  2. John - Visual Notebook

    Ray Bradbury – one of my all-time favorite authors…I’ve quoted him several times on my blog.

    I think the new year is, in a way, the closest we’ll come to reincarnation and the chance to make better what happened in our past. Each year gives us an opportunity to be a better person, photographer, father or mother, or whatever – and while perfection is unattainable in life, it’s a goal we should strive for.

    I like the photo – the outhouse has clearly not been used in a while. Is the owner “holding it in” until the snow clears, or does he/she have indoor plumbing now? Maybe it’s visitor facilities!

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, John. The outhouse is owned by a guy who uses it for parties he throws for his hunting friends. While he lives in a fairly rural area, he does have “indoor” plumbing. The image is a few years old – we used to live just up the road from this spot. And the road wasn’t paved. When I’d see him and his friends sitting around a campfire with their guns (in the dark, right next to the outhouse) I’d get this feeling that I was living a scene from the old movie “Deliverance”. Nice guy, though. But definitely an NRA type.


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