I have not ridden my motorcycle in last few days as I am away from home; alas, I do not have any recent rides to share with you. What I do have, however, are plans for rides based on where I am and why these rides will be significant for Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia.
On Saturday I went fishing in The Everglades. It was an incredibly fun experience, to say the least: a perfect day; perfect people to be with; a perfect catch of some twenty fish. What really caught my attention, however, were the endless opportunities to do photography. Just driving to the dock, I saw a field covered with thousands of spider webs glistening in the sun as far as the eye could see, all shrouded in early morning fog. I’ve never seen anything like that. I can only hope those spiders remain industrious so that when I return with my camera gear, they will still be there busily working away. Visually striking moments like these throughout the day showed me that incredible places in The Everglades are accessible with a motorcycle. I will be returning to do day trips with my camera gear in tow. The captain who took us fishing, a former biologist and avid birder, also mentioned birding locations he could take me to that require a boat. Given that over 500 species of birds have been seen in Florida during the migration season, this could only be an experience truly beyond words (this trip will not occur until early 2014, when it will be the middle of the migration season).
Trips such as these are at the core of Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia. What makes these trips something more than a good enough time are the ideas behind them. There is more to all this blogging than just cruising and doing photography in beautiful places. Keep in mind that one has to stop in the middle of a physical activity to take photographs. It is no coincidence I have put myself in this circumstance. It forces the question, How does one bring two apparently different activities together? It is similar to the question biathletes must ask themselves when learning to integrate cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle. Looking at this question when it involves a motorcycle and a camera, Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia will help answer it with the hope of generalizing that answer beyond a motorcycle and a camera.
The most obvious fact about using a motorcycle and a camera together is that one has to stop to take photographs in the middle of a physical activity: two diametrically opposed activities that nonetheless must be brought together into a unified activity. Reflecting on this can help in understanding how a physical and mental activity are brought together in the first place. The motorcycle and camera are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to movement. Imagine a gestural axis: at one end of the axis, activities where movement is stopped — photography literally collapses the experience into a frozen moment; at the other end of the axis are activities where movement is central — motorcycling is about moving through your world, where nothing is stopped. This axis of movement is a fundamental characteristic of being an animal in the world. We do this all the time: we move, stop, move, stop. It seems so simple but it is anything but that. Without the ability to move, plants could never have evolved into animals and eventually us. Without the ability to move, very little would change enough to create differences to be registered by sensory systems. The fundamental requirement for an experience is movement in the most general sense of the word.
To give some formality to this idea, let us call human movement a Gesture. Gestures are fundamental to a human experience that will lead to objective behaviors and subjective thoughts and feelings (after all, what are thoughts and feelings other than rarefied movement). When considered along these lines, the gesture is a concept with more depth to it than meets the eye. Rather than delve into these philosophical byways now, let us simply acknowledge gesture as a concept we will need to return to in a future essay. What is important for now is recognizing that a camera and a motorcycle are not the only combination that highlights the role of the gesture in human experience. You could equally write a blog about Skydiving Sandcastles & Eudaimonia when it comes to understanding how integrating a physical and meditative activity into a single tool can help us understand gesture and human experience (now wouldn’t that be an amazing blog: jumping out of a plane to look for beaches where one then builds an intricate sandcastle in a meditative setting). Limited only by one’s imagination, there would always be an integrated tool that would fit a person’s interests and abilities while still stretching them to do something new. One day there could be a website where people shared their unified tools and the insights they arrived at in their use of them.
Forgive me if I have been overly pedantic in this flyby of some wide ranging ideas. Without it, however, it would be difficult to convey what is philosphically holding this blog together. The practical significance of this comes from applying it to seeking out a flourishing life. Finding the right tool and understanding its conceptual underpinnings for its own sake would be a futile activity unless it had a practical consequence. That consequence for Cruising Photography & Eudaimonia is how the tool can help or hinder the Eudaimonic Self and its Surround. There is nothing futile about that. In fact, it is one of the most important issues each of us face: establishing and maintaining a flourishing life during the time one is granted here on earth.
Let me come back to where we started: The Everglades. When I return to The Everglades on the motorcycle with camera in tow, I will be thinking about the experience taking shape: how am I simultaneously creating and discovering both an objective world and a state of consciousness to engage it? My Surround for the day will be partly the result of my being there — the motorcycle took me to the Everglades, and my movements once there will determine where exactly I will be. But my Surround will also be a result of what gets discovered and created to see and do and feel. It is precisely this process that is both discovered and created and yet neither discovered or created that the famous 19th century children’s song eludes to:Row row row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream
Cruise gently through the ride in a eudaimonic way because the ride itself is the result of the Self/Surround we are writing down within us by the use of energy, i.e. a photograph.
All life is indeed a dream not because it does not have substance to it — after all, I will need to go to The Everglades to have an experience of it — but because we can not experience “The Everglades” in an unmediated way: my experience of “The Everglades” will be neither subjective or objective. It will proceed such categories and I will need to first create and discover them before I will be able to see it and describe them to you in the first place. I will find myself between movement and stillness as I bootstrap myself into an experience of “The Everglades.” I will have the opportunity to make sense of how movement itself plays a role in what seems like such a simple thing to do: describing my experience of The Everglades. I will also find myself wondering how does my using the motorcycle/camera tool help or hinder my Eudaimonic Self, i.e. my seeking out a flourishing life? The practical answer to this question is central not only for this blog but to life itself. I hope you can now see why I am going back to The Everglades on my motorcycle with my camera in hand, and why it is so important for me to share what I find there with you.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride