Tête-à-tête: The art of conversation

Another treasure from Steve McCurry . . .

Steve McCurry's Blog

 Brazil

The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.
― William Hazlitt, Selected Essays, 1778-1830

 Italy

Good communication is as stimulating as
black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Korea

Morocco

A single conversation can completely change the trajectory of our lives.
 – Kaye Earle

Los Angeles, California, USA

Conversation should be like juggling;
up go the balls and plates, up and over, in and out,

good solid objects that glitter in the footlights and
fall with a bang if you miss them.

― Evelyn Waugh

Angkor, Cambodia

Turkey

Lettuce is like conversation.   It must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling
that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.
– Charles Dudley Warner

Karelia, Russia

France

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

My idea of good company is the company of clever,
well-informed people who have a…

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Sam Gamgee Sings in the Tower of Cirith Ungol

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

I struggled for some time with the title of this week’s blog post. I hope that what I write will show you why and if you think that you might have a better title then please offer it as a comment. I would love to hear from you. I have chosen the simplest title that I can think of. It is simply a description of what happens. Sam sings and he does so in the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

Immediately that seemingly simple statement should make us stop in wonder. The tower is an orc fortress on the border of Mordor, once a part of a ring of fortifications built by Gondor at the height of its power in order to watch over the land that had been taken from Sauron at the great battle in which the Ring was taken from him. As Gondor’s power waned it was taken from…

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Why Do We Bother?

Barnstorming

wallysolstice

dawn7251
Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,
and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.
~Billy Collins “Morning”
dawn7253
Dawn is a new gift every day,
even if the shortest night was sleepless,
and the longest day won’t return for another year.We get up
to see…

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A Crack in Everything

Barnstorming

brokenbarn

sunrise66172

morningbird

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Ah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen from “Anthem”

sunsetsky67172

lettinggo4

Our cracks expand with age:
do they not heal as quickly
or are we more brittle than before?

I know how my eyes leak,
my heart feels more porous.
The events of…

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Art of Friendship

Friendship beautifully portrayed by Steve McCurry.

Steve McCurry's Blog

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Luoyang, China

Myanmar (Burma)

There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. 

– Thomas Aquinas

Loikaw, Myanmar (Burma)

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.
– Jane Austen

India

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly,
takes all patiently, defends courageously, and
continues a friend unchangeably.

– William Penn

Afghanistan

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work.
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
– Ecclesiastes 4

Pagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Katmandu, Nepal

Kashmir

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kampala, Uganda

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand,
not the kindly smile…

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The King and The Healing of Merry

“the dearest freshness deep down things”

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

And so last but not least Aragorn comes to the bed in which Merry lies. Pippin sits anxiously beside his friend, fearing that he might die but Aragorn speaks words of reassurance.

“Do not be afraid… I came in time, and I have called him back. He is weary now, and grieved, and he has taken a hurt like the Lady Éowyn, daring to smite that deadly thing. But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him. His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.”

And so Aragorn reaches past all the anxiety, self-doubt and fear that has beset Merry on a journey that has been almost too much for his conscious self and he reaches within to what Merry truly is, one that is both strong and gay. We saw both with Faramir…

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Surprise ahead

The Miraculous in the Mundane: Annie Dillard on Reclaiming Our Capacity for Joy and Wonder

“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.”

Annie Dillard (b. April 30, 1945) has a way of coaxing the miraculous out of the mundane with such commanding gentleness that ordinary life has no choice but to unmask its extraordinary dimensions. She does this over and over in her 1974 masterwork Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (public library) — one of the most beautiful books to bless a lifetime with, which also gave us her magnificent meditation on the art of seeing and the two ways of looking.

I find myself returning to one particular passage that strikes with the grandeur Dillard is able to extract from the humblest of acts and the most middling of moments. She writes:

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

Illustration by Sydney Smith from Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, a wordless ode to living with presence

The joy of this, of course, comes not from reveling in the self-appointed godliness of orchestrating a mundane micro-miracle — it comes, rather, from the unexpected grace of allowing such an unremarkable event to fill the soul with such remarkable delight. But the very act of allowing is something we unlearn as we go through life and forget what it means to be truly awake. To relearn it, Dillard suggests, is to reclaim our capacity for joy and wonder:

The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But — and this is the point — who gets excited by a mere penny?

[…]

It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple.

After all, as Dillard herself has written elsewhere, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Complement Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which is as much a life-changing read as it is a life-changing reread every time, with Dillard on writing.

Originally posted here.

On Portraiture

The eye is the window of the soul.

Steve McCurry's Blog

Portraits reveal a desire for human connection;
a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again
open themselves to the camera,  all in the hope that at the other end
someone will be watching,

someone who will laugh or suffer with them.

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Afghanistan Afghanistan

What could be more simple and more complex,
more obvious and more profound than a portrait.

– Charles Baudelaire

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Baluchistan, Pakistan Baluchistan, Pakistan

A good portrait is one that says something about the person.
We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the

good portrait should also say something about the human condition.

Afghanistan Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan

The most difficult thing for me is a portrait.
You have to try to put your camera between the
skin of a person and his shirt.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Philippines Philippines

Pokhara, Nepal Pokhara, Nepal

Lambari, Brazil Lambari, Brazil

Madhya Pradesh, India Madhya Pradesh, India

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photography and the genre…

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