I began my day early (before sunrise and before the tourists arrived) in meditation at Mission San Xavier del Bac, just south of Tucson. The mission was founded in 1692, and the current building was completed in 1797. The mission is located on the reservation of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The mission is a beautiful edifice with history and stories seeping from its walls and icons.
I thought of the natives who walked these lands and whose lives were transformed by undocumented (illegal?)
immigrants conquerors from Europe, who allowed the natives to keep a small portion of the barren desert that had no value to the white men.
There is a lot of history in the desert. Much blood has been spilled here. But many celebrations have occurred here, too. Not just in the desert. But in this mission. It was a good place to start the day.
Later I checked out the photography portraits of the late Richard Avedon at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. I used to take a lot of photographs but stopped because I didn’t think I was very good at it and it had become a hassle. I might resume some day now that I have more free time.
Avedon was very good at his craft. Some people think the key to taking great portraits is being able to capture the essence of the subject. But that’s not how Avedon saw it.
“My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.”
It reminded me of the quote from Anaïs Nin I had read earlier in the week:
“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
Reality is objective, but it affects each of us differently; we interpret and react and respond to it differently. Of course, we’re not always mindful of this and, therefore, we tend to project onto others our expectations and demands, and sometimes react emotionally in self-harmful ways when reality collides with our illusions, delusions, and dreams. We delude ourselves into thinking our experiences and understandings are universal or objective. Or that things are either right or wrong, imposing judgments at every turn. When I do that, it creates angst and perhaps other problems or life-depleting conditions. For me. Only me. What is the purpose in that?
When we fail to handle situations well — and by well, I mean in a way that is life-enhancing — then we tend to blame others, criticize, complain, sulk, get angry, resentful, or depressed, or turn on ourselves with blame and self-hatred.
I am becoming convinced that one of the keys to well-being — to a sense of meaning and satisfaction — is seeing reality clearly and accepting it for what it is. In other words, seeing and experiencing life through a lens that isn’t distorted by expectations, desires, and a host of other ideas and forces that can lodge in our minds with counter-productive effects and cause us to pine for a reality that simply does not exist. Easier said than done!
The failure to do so, however, means my life is less than it can be, for seeing life through a distorted lens is not a pleasing experience. Indeed, disappointment and despair are inevitable.
So what does my view of reality tell me about myself?
How can I change that view so life may become more beautiful and satisfying?
How can I react and respond to reality in ways that enhance rather than undermine my well-being?
How can I seize control of my own thoughts?
These are some of the questions on my mind …
In the desert.