I have been looking through the photographs of some of the landscapes we have been wandering lately, revisiting them in memory, for today I am tackling a part of our new book, Doomsday, that I have been putting off for some time. I do not want to revisit yet another traumatic encounter with the ancient past, but what has been given to us on our wanderings forms part of the tale. So, there is no avoiding it.
You could call it imagination and dismiss it. You could wonder what on earth I am worried about when all I really encountered were nebulous images and emotions in a landscape of great beauty. You might even question my sanity… be my guest….sometimes I do myself… all of the above. Nevertheless, these encounters are very real on an emotional level and affect me in much the same way as if I was an eye-witness or participant; the experience just as raw, the tears just as wet, the grief just as poignant.
It is said that images have a similar emotional impact as their reality. You have only to look at the plethora of cute animals that abound on social media and there is the almost inevitable smile and quiet ‘Awww…’. Or see the newsreel pictures of starving children in war-torn landscapes… We may have become somewhat desensitised to those over the decades, bombarded with images as we are, but no one who remembers those very first pictures of the Biafran famine of the ’60s can fail to be taken back to that time and the gut-wrenching horror of skeletal frames too weak to weep.
Images do that. Artists and photographers inform, inspire and educate us, evoking emotion with a small window on the world seen through their eyes. They trigger memories, picking us up from the present and dropping us straight into another time and place, along with the attendant emotions, joyous or sad. We are fascinated by images, since the first ochre handprints on the walls of caves to our flashing multimedia world man has always sought them, created them and invested them with importance.
The inner images on the screen of mind, where all things are possible, in many ways rule our lives. Our dreams and hopes play out there, our memories linger there, daydreams meander through our quiet moments and our fears are vivid in imagination. We do not always see them clearly, and our self-image can be negative and blight our passage through the world in just the same way as the vision of the successful is held in consciousness and pursued to fruition. Our belief in those images is what makes the difference and brings them, positive and negative, into our everyday realities and allows them to change our lives.
These images that define us are personal. They do not need to be factual in order to be real… or even true. They are real for us and their effects on who and what we are, are true. Our dreams may inspire us, no matter how unrealistic they may seem to others. Our fears may hold us back, tied within illusions of our own creation. And they too may seem unlikely to others, yet are a powerful presence on the chessboard of our lives.
As we continue to write of our experiences in the landscape for our books, I have ceased to question their objective reality. I can share them only with words and images, painted pictures abstracted from the inner vision. The essence of these experiences, like all experience, is subjective, personal, and deeply felt; opening the landscape to an understanding that ignores logic and bringing it to life for us in ways mere, cold fact could never do. It does not matter if it is fact. We follow the thread of a shared human experience that spans the ages with warmth and emotion in something akin to the archaeology of the soul.