Friday, 28 November 2014

Why I Stopped Blogging

About three months ago I was driving home from somewhere up North. It was late in the afternoon on an overcast Spring day. I drove up one of the little curving switchback hills over which State Highway 1 winds North from Dunedin and saw the dark clouds part and a single crepuscular ray of light pick out a distant hill. Under a billowed flannel grey sky the earth was the bright light  green of newness and growth. I stopped the car and got out my camera. The ray of light glowed straight edged and several sided; perfect. I knew it would disappear as the gap in the clouds above it closed, so I had maybe a minute to get the shot. Crepuscular rays, "God beams", are hard to capture. I extended the zoom all the way out, set the aperture as wide as it would go - at that distance there weren't going to be any depth of field problems and I wanted as fast a shutter speed as possible to obviate camera shake in the fading light. Of course I could have just knocked the ISO up a couple of notches, but I wanted this to be as noise free and smooth as I could get it. The clouds were dark and the beam very bright, and I wanted detail in both. I also wanted to capture that electrically bright green. I could try an HDR shot, or just make an averaged exposure and then use layers in Photoshop to get the results I wanted.

I looked across the miles of farmland between me and my latest picture. It was all so very beautiful; so alive, so mobile so transient so still and so old, all at the same time. And I put my camera down. What was I doing lessening my view of this loveliness by looking at it through a viewfinder? Why on earth did I want to capture this? The world moved on. The bright window in the cloud closed over and the beam disappeared. The grey sky darkened and in a watery teal blue patch of sky directly above me one of the planets, Mercury? stared pale eyed down as a further, deeper rent in the early evening sky. It was not as gaudy as what had just passed but it was every bit as beautiful. The universe would not miss yet another photograph sitting on my hard drive, and for a moment I was privileged to see this without the obstructing rush and bother involved in trying to grab hold of it.

I drove home thinking about why I had the need to try and capture little slices of the flux in which I - in which we all - dwell. I thought about the way a camera attempts to freeze time, and about how this is a futile, pointless exercise. How photography can be a crass little 'Kilroy was here' graffiti scrawled on the ever changing beauty of the Universe. I began taking photographs as a way of helping me see the world. But now more often than not the camera stood between me and the world. Once it had invited me into what was there; now it shut me out.

I got home and put my camera bag into the cupboard in my study and left it there. And I thought about blogging, which to me is a kind of verbal equivalent of photography.

I began this blog as a record of the study leave I took in 2008. Soon after I began blogging I became ill, so I recorded and worked through, on here, many of the issues surrounding my cancer. Then I used it to record and share my experiences on the Camino Santiago. And in all this, I reflected on Life The Universe and Everything, and enjoyed some great conversations with those who took the trouble to read and respond to what I wrote. It was all very helpful for me, like a kind of public diary and an invitation into relationship. Then I became Bishop, and suddenly I had to be a lot more careful about what I said. And suddenly my days were so absurdly busy that blogging became just one more chore, and one which was subject to the same disquieting question as the photographs: why? Why capture snippets of my thought processes and experiences? Why take these small tissue samples from the living, ever changing body of my daily life and lay them out where everyone can see them?

I could find no satisfactory answer to that question, so I simply stopped. Technology has moved on. My phone is a powerful computer with a large bright screen and a superb camera. The information once shared on here moved, by way of  groups on Google+ or WhatsApp, into a more private sphere. The sorts of conversation which I once had in the comments section of posts continued, and with much the same people, via email and text.

But here I am again. So why start again? The main answer is because so many people asked me to. I've noticed that, even though I haven't been posting, a steady 200-300 people a day are opening pages on here. I have thought a lot about communication and the odd, constantly evolving blur between public and private which technology plunges us into. Perhaps between the poles of the persona managing pseudo-communication of Facebook and the private sharing of moments on Whatsapp, and the life giving email conversations with friends, there is still a role for Available Light.

This weekend I am in my Caravan in Cromwell. I have a free evening.  I plugged my long disused camera  into the computer and found 208 photos, such as the one above,  which I had forgotten I had ever taken. So here we go again. I know a few of you want to listen, so I guess I'm prepared to speak.