Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

An Appetite for Clarity

Chinle Wash, Canyon de Chelly NM

Chinle Wash, Canyon de Chelly NM

The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe:  it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity.

                                           Albert Camus


7 Responses to “An Appetite for Clarity”

  1. Cedric Canard

    Oh, I wish mind’s deepest desire was for familiarity and clarity. Alas, it certainly doesn’t seem like that to me.

    Got to say though, that your photo has me transfixed. My eyes are wandering all over it and I’m imagining myself exploring all the various parts, leaving foot prints in the snow, marvelling at the rock formation and wondering what lies beyond to the top left. Where were you standing to get this vantage point? This kind of scenery looks so different in winter.

    • Paul Maxim

      I’m not sure what you mean, Cedric, but I think that it’s true that most people do want their lives to be “familiar and clear”. They want to believe that there are rules and that ultimately life has some kind of special meaning. That there’s a reason for their existence. In a word, they need God to exist. They need to believe that there is an absolute morality (and absolute truth) governing the universe.

      Camus, of course, believed that God did not exist, that there were no rules and that life had no “special” meaning. He called man’s pursuit of these nonexistent things “Absurdism”. One of my favorite Camus quotes has to do with Art. “If the world were clear”, he said, “art would not exist”. Now there’s an idea worth pondering……..

      I’m glad you like the photograph. When I took it, the center of my attention was the 3 people on horseback crossing the river. The river – or wash – runs through a fairly deep and fairly long canyon. The canyon is bounded by high cliffs on either side, both of which include roads that roughly parallel the river. To answer your question, the far wall is just beyond the rocks you see up in the left corner.

      Also interesting is the farm (or ranch) near the bottom of the frame. Unlike most National Monuments people live here (Navajo). It may be that the people on horseback are being led through the canyon by a Navajo guide. Man, I wish that I had been one of them………

      • Cedric Canard

        I too agree that people want their lives to be familiar and clear (I include myself in those numbers), but in my experience, mind seems more intent on chaos and confusion. My greatest moments of clarity are when I am free of thoughts but even in those moments clarity is relative; clarity is only within the context of self. Life in general remains as confusing as ever. And as Camus makes out, that’s a good thing for anyone who appreciates art. And it would seem that the human need for morality and divine truth is as baffling to me as it is to Camus.

        • Paul Maxim

          Perhaps you see “chaos and confusion” because you’re aware of the apparent paradox. I think the very act of seeking clarity leads inevitably to a state of chaos. If entropy rules the universe – and I tend to believe that it does – then seeking absolutes can only produce conflict, since humans seem incapable of finding the same “absolutes”. See? I’ve gone and done it myself.

        • Cedric Canard

          I’m with you on entropy. And yes seeking absolutes is like seeking happiness; it’s only fun if you don’t put any importance on the goal 🙂

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Brooks. I think that’s why I enjoy the image as well – it reminds me of the “exploring” we were doing on that particular day. The snow on the red rocks was a bonus……..


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