The Power of Stuff

There is a scene in one of my favorite moves, The Mission, where Robert DiNero’s character is scaling a waterfall dragging his old armor, seemingly as penance as he transitions from violent solider to peaceful Jesuit.  The scaling itself looks difficult, and his added arsenal of “stuff” makes it nearly impossible.  He slips, and his mentor needs to cut him free of his attached armor to save his life.  As we hear his former belongings clang down the gorgeous waterfall, we are sure the rest of the journey will be trying, but one can sense his instant liberation from his shell.  He continues lighter, dragging less on the journey.

That scene came to mind as comfort when, a week into a joyful vacation, my spouse realized that our camera had been stolen.  Our first reaction was sadness, having lost documented memories and well constructed frames of one of the most beautiful places in the US.  But with time, I also found liberation in our lighter load.  I could not help but notice that our stuff had been weighing me down, and I did not even notice until it had been cut free.  It was an instant refocusing.  It’s just a camera.

Dan and I have studied the art of photography.  Our camera had become a hobby and a ministry.  We became the people at weddings and baptisms and birthdays to snap the precious candid to send it on as gift.  And in that regard, the lost item was one to mourn.  But having it snatched also made me reflect on the hold the camera had on me.  Our remaining days on the trip were not spent looking for the perfect picture, but simply living.  I have a tendency to stop in the middle of a perfect moment to take a picture of it instead of just living it and keeping it for myself.  Our Facebook culture has become a bit obsessed with pictures, almost in a way to prove that we are living, to prove that we are happy, to show others our adventures instead of just having them for the sake of having them.  Now, I think sharing pictures of important people and events, and the community that can be built with that is wonderful.  Don’t misunderstand.  I am just saying that I noticed in myself that I had given an awful lot of power to an object that can be taken away.  And I was slipping into being more preoccupied with taking pictures of my life for the pictures sake, instead of living my life for life’s sake.  As a woman, it was supporting the tendency to worry more about how others are perceiving me from the outside than working on myself from the inside.  It made me wonder how much life I lost in the process.

Dan and I are contemplating whether to buy another camera or not.  I think we will, for the art and hobby of it.  But I am grateful for the perspective it gave me to be cut free from it.  I think it helped me be a more balanced camera owner.  It makes me wonder what other stuff in my life is weighing me down.