My soul in a photograph

There are some Native American cultures that believe that to get your picture taken is to lose part of your soul.  The essence of your soul is captured in that photo and held there never to be recovered.  Silly right?  Before I go ignorantly blasting other cultures that I’ve only read about on Wikipedia, though, I have some thoughts about this that need to be blogged. 

I recently saw a picture from my past – wait that’s redundant, unless any of you have ever seen a picture from the future.  Ok, you know what?  I just saw Star Trek last night at midnight, so I’m a little tired and my concept of the space-time continuum is still healing.  Back on track- I saw a picture from when I was younger, several years younger.  And instantly, upon viewing the picture, old emotions were drug up.  I didn’t have to stir them, they just came.  It’s  like part of my soul, part of who I am, is still in that picture, still living that moment in time.  Kind of a weird way to think about it, but it’s an interesting idea.  

Let’s take it one step further: in an interesting way, it’s like that time still exists.  We tend to view time as this instantaneous thing that only happens in the instant we call “NOW!” and is gone forever.  But when you look at a picture you feel THAT time, however long ago it happened.  And this can happen with other things as well (songs, smells, sensations), so in a broad sense, I’d say that memories are picture-snapshots of our lives that stay.  They just stay.  The reason pictures are so valued is that our memories can fail, our minds can be altered, but that picture is external, that time is captured outside of us. 

I, personally, like this idea.  I like the idea that the experiences the compose us are not dead the moment they pass.  In this life, we’re bound to walk a timeline, whether we want to or not, but it’s been proven that there are dimensions to our universe that are not bound by time.  There are sometimes when you can look at a picture and relive a great time in your life.  Other times, it’s great pain, or great confusion, or whatever, but we’re drawn to the pictures because we can use them to go back and process that part of our life. 

So let’s say you’ve somehow followed me this far.  Part of us is left imprinted on the photos we have, forever tied to that moment in time, and to the people we shared that space with in that time.  Let’s say you even are allowing the idea that we can really relive those moments, it’s like they’re RIGHT THERE in front of us.  Our heartrate will elevate again, or our stomachs will sink, you name it.  Let’s take the next step.

You’ve heard that you can’t change the past right?  What if we can?

Not like, I can go back and decide that I want to play High School baseball instead of football.  But what if those moments in the photos can change after the fact?  Let’s think of a sports game.  My senior year of high school, I started as wide receiver against our cross town rivals.  I was just coming off an injury the week before (I almost lost every ligament in my knee) and was prepared to play only a part of the game.  But, second play of the game, our other starting receiver goes down with a sprained ankle.  My coach informed me that I wouldn’t be coming out of the game.  The stadium was packed, almost 6,000 people there! 

There’s a picture I have from the cover of the Coloradoan of me catching a football in the middle of the field in the middle of three defenders.  For me, that was a triumphant moment.  Up till that point in time, I had never had a more significant catch.  Our team was against the ropes and that catch got my team the first down and lit a spark that began our comeback in that game.  I was as pumped as you’ll EVER see me.  Freeze that moment right there and we have one of the most positive memories in my life.  Seriously. 

00:51 left in the game, 3rd down and 4 yards to go for a first down.  We’re down by 5 points, 31 to 26, I believe.  We’re on our own 40 yard line.  I run a quick hitch, catch the ball, my defender slips off me, I turn down the sideline.  My mind begins going a thousand miles per hour:

“beat the linebacker.”  check.

“beat the first safety.”  check.

“look at the clock.” 00:45 left. 

“where’s the second safety?” I knew the second safety had a Division I football scholarship lined up, which means he’s FAST.  I also knew I hadn’t run in 8 days because my knee had swelled up the size of a basketball. 

“THERE.  His shadow’s right behind you, he’s going to try and strip the ball.”

“Look at the clock, how are we doing?” 00:43 left. 

All of this happened between the 45 yard line and the other 30 yard line. 

As I neared the endzone, I knew exactly how much time was left, knew I would probably be caught, and that our team had fumbled the ball 8 times that day.  So I covered the ball, got hit from behind and when I rolled up, I immediately looked to see where we were: 2 yard line.  1st down, 00:41 left in the game.  We ended up running 7 plays on that 2 yard line (I was open for a pass and got tackled by the safety before the ball got there, automatic first down).  We still didn’t score. 

And so the next day when I looked at the picture on the front page of the sports section.  A big picture of me making the once triumphant catch, but that moment had changed for me.  Instead of personal accomplishment, team morale, and victory, it made me think of futility, frustration, and that sick feeling you get when your best falls just 2 yards short of certain victory.  Every time I see that picture, the entire game replays in my head, and that special moment has lost its meaning. 

That example is a rather immediate example, the moment in the past changed by an action 60 minutes later.  But if that can happen in that circumstance, certainly it can happen over a longer period of time.  I recently heard a story about a couple who got married and went back to look at a picture of their first significant date where they realized that they were special to each other.  That date was special yes, but now, looking back, the moment has changed a little, for the better.  It wasn’t just a good day, it was the start of something, something that will last.   If, in the end, they had broken up, they might have looked back at it and seen hurt, or betrayal. 

I could go into parallel universes here and the idea that time really does all happen at once, but I don’t want to.  This is more of a metaphysical thought on my mind.  I saw a picture yesterday.  I relived it.  And you know what?  I wanted to change it.  I wanted to go back and do it differently.  Maybe I’ll get the chance now to change then.  I don’t know if that’s really going to be possible.  But I’m going to try because, like it or not, part of me is stuck in that picture forever, and while it’s only by the grace of God that we sometimes have the chance to change our photographs, I don’t want to waste the opportunity.

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