Saturday, April 14, 2012

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert

So what's wrong with being different, unique? What's wrong with standing out in a crowd because you refuse to conform to ideals and stereotypes? Are you hurting others? Are you hurting yourself?

Are you genuinely you?

I won't profess to know the human psyche well enough to definitively say how we humans develop through adolescence and into adulthood, but from my observations, it typically goes something like this:  Innocence to curiosity; curiosity to exploration; exploration to decision. The process of becoming someone--something--isn't the same for anyone and can certainly take longer for a select few. For example, by the time I was 24, I thought I knew what I wanted. Relatively speaking, I was on the same track I'd later decide to continue to pursue but I had the wrong motivations and intentions. Life was topsy turvy for me 15 years ago and it was pretty evident I was unique and entirely different than the rest of my family. It wasn't intentional; it just was.

After settling back into what I felt was the correct path in life for me, I found out later I was wrong yet again. What I felt was a spiritual decision to venture in the direction I did was actually still very rooted in the same selfish purposes I had when I was in my young 20s. And by the time I hit my 30s, I was having to restart my life all over again. The emotional maturing and development I went through was supposed to have happened when I was 10 years younger, but for some reason, I stumbled into it later in life and to this day, I continue to develop. Frankly, I don't think I'll ever stop.

The paradox that is opened when choosing to take certain steps to define who we are is quite complex. To dumb it down a bit, we inevitably turn into dead-ends or open wastes that yield no direction. While we could be back on some other path headed towards success and satisfaction, we're instead trying not only to find a glimmer of hope, but ourselves. For the most part, we all wade our way through the difficult eras and then find our niche in life. Many will look back and regret the choices he or she made while others will admire the scars they endured and the experiences wrought along the way.

Ultimately and philosophically, we could then surmise that childhood is a beast, but only in hindsight. For me, the emotions I felt as a kid doing various kid things I cling to now with deep affection. Just the other day while I was on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, I had a moment where my chest started pounding with child-like excitement when we cruised through the cave of skeletons and treasure chests and gold and maps and cobwebs. I instantly relived dozens of moments from my youth and when we spat out the end of the ride, part of my soul was rejuvenated. I like it like that! Yet my heart hates that those years are gone and that I failed to develop in the same way many of my friends and siblings have. Where they are all married and doing family things, I'm about to hit 40 and am momentarily focused on developing my career because I really don't have much else to do.

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert, by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994)--a photographer and pioneering photojournalist--is the black and white image of three children on the streets of Paris. Capturing a moment like this isn't easy, especially when your subjects are three individual sets of random emotion and movement. Yet Doisneau has frozen time in such a way that with each child, we the audience are able to evolve our emotional response as our gaze moves from face to face.

Poignantly capturing the three basic phases of development, innocence, curiosity/exploration, and decision are mirrored in the respective looks and attitudes. In each child, we're able to recognize moments of our own lives during development and for those who are open-minded, the emotions of those moments can be felt once again. The small girl at the bottom center; such a cutie! She's completely mesmerized by the camera and moment and it's easy to tell that nothing else matters; she's completely Innocent. Right behind her and seemingly in charge of the youngest is Curiosity mugging for the lens while exuding her femininity. She's awkward yet signs of developing grace and ambition can be seen. And lastly, leaning against a police call-box, is Decision; he's cool, he's careless, he's not bothered nor interested in the moment. Oh, but he is ... he just refuses to accept it. Feigning his collection and suave appeal, he's at the ripe age of knowing it all and his choice to be who he is, is final. At least for now.

It's a simple image of three simple beings who have no clue what may lie in store for their lives in 10 or 20 years. Each one is rightfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of adulthood so in that, they are all three very similar. Yet each one is at a stage in life that will set the foundations for whom they become later on in life. It's saddening, evocative, exciting, and almost morbid all wrapped up together. But who are any of us to discourage the explorations of others except to intervene when eminent danger lie ahead? For the most part and much like our three children here, we're all average and miniscule in the sea of others who are at their own stage of becoming who they want to be, wish to be, and hope to be. It can get crowded and uncomfortable and at times, elbows can be thrown, but we're all in this together and thus capable of being supportive and encouraging. Focus not on the aspects of how others develop, but embrace your own recognizing the philosophical journey is one you are not alone in doing. In the end, you'll come to realize it's all about harmony and that each step forward is a success.

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