At some point during college, I was thumbing through an art magazine and ran across a black-and-white photograph which I found particularly engaging. It was dark, a bit bleary and mysterious, containing a silhouette of a nondescript, generic man. Underneath the photo as an integral part of the image, photographer Duane Michals had — in a quick, confident handwriting — incorporated these words:
It is no accident that you are reading this. I am making black marks on white paper. These marks are my thoughts, and although I do not know who you are reading this now, in some way the lines of our lives have intersected… For the length of these few sentences, we meet here. It is no accident that you are reading this. This moment has been waiting for you, I have been waiting for you. Remember me.
This was a powerful concept for me at the time…..I mulled it over for weeks, and began to look at the things around me in new ways. Every experience, conversation, gesture, magazine article, song, novel, poem, painting, photograph, TV show, class lecture — became supercharged with potential. Each moment of my life was destined just for me. No other person in the world had the same set of experiences, and no other person would interpret these experiences the same way I did. I had a unique, truly unique, existence which I could turn into something meaningful. All I had to do was be present enough in each moment to recognize — and remember — the important stuff.
I really love this particular epiphany. It lurks in my constant subconscious nowadays, and has become an integral part of me. I believe there is potential wisdom — even potential soul — in every event, every friend, every stranger, every adventure, every boredom, every search, every dream.
A friend once held out an upturned hand to me, offering a fleeting moment of comfort in the middle of a freakin’ crazy-insane college weekend. The image of his hand — and the tenderness, honesty, and vulnerability it represented — froze in my head more clearly and brightly than my Nikon could ever document. It broke my heart when, fourteen years later, I sat beside his hospital bed in trauma ICU as he lay in a hopeless coma…..tragically silent among a thick circle of blinking, beeping, ultramodern medical technology. I held the same hand he once offered me.
All those years ago, something inside me recognized a significance of a moment, a person, a friendship. I still look for those moments. They make life richer, more dimensioned, more purposeful, more fulfilling. I hope I know what to do with them when they happen.