August 19, 2013

Beauty in Crowds?

True confession: I'm crowd averse. I prefer small gatherings to big crowds. I associate crowds with noise, frenzy, and over-stimulation. But crowds are part of life. (Sigh.) So recently I've tried to find beauty in crowds--both with my camera and with my heart. 

Sometimes I get hooked by the stories in my mind. Even further, I believe I'm a big player in other people's lives--either thinking I can save people or worrying about their thoughts of me.  But here's a hard reality: I'm not the biggest player in anyone else's story. And crowds provide me this perspective. I can viscerally understand my impact. Yes, my actions have impact (and heartfelt action has more positive effect), but the impact isn't blown out of proportion. I don't believe I'm worthless nor do I believe I'm all-powerful. I'm just me, in a crowd. In this way, anonymity can be a balm.

But I never want to lose my empathy. I've heard meditation teacher Pema Chodron describe a compassion exercise, "just like me." Just like me, that person--right there--wants to be loved; to be happy; to not suffer. Just like me, each person in this crowd experiences joys and sorrows. This reflection allows me to see the face of each person in a crowd and feel compassion; compassion in a group of strangers--what a gift.

Via photography, the depiction of crowds is a complex activity. If I focus on the personal--a few faces--then I haven't captured the crowd. But if I focus on the masses, the visual is uninteresting. I've chosen the purposeful out-of-focus shot, so the crowds are colorful circles and shapes. Their beauty is abstractly revealed and the details are left to the viewer's imagination. In this way, crowds are an art form. 

If I'm mindful, crowds quiet my internal story and widen my compassionate view. Crowds are colorful shapes of humanity. Indeed, there is beauty in crowds. The next time I'm crowd-averse, I just need to look deeper. Perhaps this is a rule for all of life (when averse, look deeper).

No comments:

Post a Comment