Robert Hass begins his extraordinary collection, What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World, talking about the photography of Ansel Adams and Robert Adams:
What the two artists have in common, besides a name, is a certain technical authority. The source of that authority is mysterious to me. But it is that thing in their images that, when you look at them, compels you to keep looking. I think it’s something to do with the formal imagination. I don’t know whether photographers find it in the world, or when they look through the viewfinder, or when they work in the darkroom, but the effect is a calling together of all the elements of an image so that the photograph feels like it is both prior to the act of seeing and the act of seeing. Attention, Simone Weil said, is prayer, and form in art is the way attention comes to life.
This passage is full of such powerful thoughts, and I appreciate being reminded of the inimitably wise quote from Simone Weil. Yesterday while we were dealing with the disruption of 27″ of snow piled everywhere in Boston, I posted this quote on Facebook from Philippa Perry‘s book, How To Stay Sane:
Be careful which stories you expose yourself to…The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved…If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. … The trouble is, if we do not have a mind that is used to hearing good news, we do not have the neural pathways to process such news.
One friend read that quote and shared this wise additional insight: “What we speak (and I’m adding “listen to” and “believe without questioning”) becomes the house we live in.” — حافظ Hafiz, Persian Poet.”
The house I am living in, literally and figuratively, is changing. I am leaving the arduous navigation of snow narrowed streets for several weeks of trekking in the wild outdoorness of New Zealand. I am asking Hass’ idea of the “formal imagination” to accompany me.
I am back here, Slowly Musing, after March 4.
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