brief glimpses of beauty

by chance one evening i walked into a screening of a jonas mekas documentary, a five hour movie of the directors private super 8 reels. because my friends are film buffs they knew about this exhibit, the movie screening on a loop during the whole weekend in an abandoned warehouse in the center of the city. 

i came with them because i had nothing better to do and old super 8 footage tickled the curious photographer in me. also the title was a driving factor: as i was moving ahead occasionally i saw brief glimpses of beauty. 

arriving, a big room under a temporary roof of plywood – the screen was enormous and we sat down on one of the cushions on the floor. 

and i believe – as i have always done – that sometimes the things that will alter the course of your life arrive before you even knew you needed a new direction. 

as instantaneous as the flutter of wings.

i sat there for 15 minutes, watching the short clips of mekas family and friends flitter before my eyes: a daughter blowing out a birthday cake, a baby laughing – the cat playing with a toy and a woman taking a photograph. central park in the spring and brooklyn during a snowstorm. the back of a cabdriver and shoes lying discarded in the sand. 

images of a life not very different from my own. 

my friends wanted to leave but i stayed behind. in that big empty room filled with mekas decades-long collections of reels and sounds, i sat and watched.  

they made my cry, these images; friends and family members i had never known and would never come know. they reminded me own my own. of loved ones far away both in space and time. the personal and the universal blurring themselves together in my mind. 

i have never experienced a thunderstorm from a rooftop in manhattan. but i know, deep down, that i could or would – that i can. 

my images and memories are no different from yours, mekas voice proclaims from the scratchy voice-over. my life is not that much different from what you have seen or experienced. 

these smiling faces could be mine. they are not, so instead i have my own – so very much alike. late evenings spent with friends around the kitchen table, early mornings in bed with a loved one. small hands picking wild strawberries and curtains billowing through the windows. my curtains may not look the same as mekas, but the experience is the same. to think that so many vivid moments occur in so similar yet so altered ways; a kaleidoscope of slightly different simultaneous experiences. how many gentle hands are currently washing the dishes clean? 

there is a theory from the field of anthropology about small identifiable gestures creating visual impressions in our minds – like second-long clips of familiar patterns. a lovers hand on a knee, a buried foot in warm sand, bare skin against soft fur or a breaststroke in the cool river. i think the same idea can be applied to literature and words – a narratively embodied cognition. so i want to turn to you, reader: when you read the sentences of these signifying gestures – did you experience a impressionistic mental image in your mind? 

i cannot hear your answer, but personally, subjectively. i think we all do it, subconsciously, when reading. 

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