|Fame - Mojave, California|
Solomon lived a few thousand years ago. Some say that he was the wisest man to have ever lived, and, while that might be debatable, he certainly is one of the great philosophers of all time. He wrote parts of some books that are in the Bible and the entirety of the book Ecclesiastes.
The book of Ecclesiastes is about finding meaning in a meaningless world. Solomon, a wealthy king, devoted unprecedented resources to uncovering the meaning of life.
Why am I bringing this up on a photography blog? Even though the words were written thousands of years ago in a much different time, they still apply today--even to the pursuit of pictures.
|When New Times Aren't Any Better - Pismo Beach, California|
Solomon wrote, "Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless--like chasing the wind."
People want what other people have (or what they think other people have). Keeping up with the Joneses. Or even getting it first. It's what motivates most people to do what they do, make the decisions that they make. But it's like chasing the wind--endless and empty.
That's a depressing message: most people are living a meaningless life, following an impossible pursuit of envy. But Solomon cautions against giving up, saying, "Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin."
|Tipped Wheel Chair - Lancaster, California|
Then he gives a valuable piece of advice, "Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind." In other words, it's better to have a little and be content and happy than to have a lot and always worrying and striving for more.
"I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun," Solomon continued. "This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, 'Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?' It is all so meaningless and depressing."
That's a picture of Scrooge or anyone who puts money and things ahead of family and friends. Whenever one scratches their way to the top, climbing over whoever they need, they end up very lonely.
|Abandoned In California - California City, California|
Solomon concludes, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."
How I understand all that Solomon said in this passage in Ecclesiastes (chapter 4, verses 4 through 12), is that most people are envious of others (which is an empty pursuit), that it's better to have a little and be happy than have a lot and always wanting more, and that what's really important in life is not possessions, but friends and family that you can count on (and who can count on you).
Street photographer Eric Kim put it this way: "In today's age, we are obsessed with the concept of 'more.' We falsely believe that we need more stuff, more money, more cameras, more lenses, more megapixels--more, more, more."
|Done Shopping - Arvin, California|
There is a cost to the pursuit of more, which is a meaningless and lonely life. The truth is that if you are reading this, you are (in comparison to the entire world) quite wealthy. If you have a house, a car, a computer, a cell phone, food in the fridge and some money in the bank, you're rich. You might not feel rich, but you are! You are already wealthy, yet you don't think you have enough. You need that new DSLR or that expensive lens. But do you really need it? The truth is that you don't need more.
It's better to have a camera that works and you're happy using than to constantly pursue the latest releases from Canon and Nikon and Fuji and such. Just because someone else raves about some new product doesn't mean that you should go out and spend a bunch of money that you don't really have on it.
The best pursuit in photography (and life) is people. Photography shouldn't be lonely. Focus less on gear and focus more on connecting with others. Relationships are what matter, and envy can ruin that. Don't chase more, choose contentment instead.