The Unintended Gift

“Where did you come from”?

It’s a common question us humans like to ask each other as we bob and wave through this world.

Our answer could be, “Kingsley”, or “Krakow”, or “California”, and it would be true.  But in reality, we all came from some something else.

Our Parents.

And THEY came from somewhere else…..their four parents.

It’s kind of natural to want to look back and see where we’ve come from in this journey and what got us here.  And just what got us here, are our relatives.  There’s a billion reasons why you SHOULDN’T exist.  If it wasn’t for the fact your mother and father hooked-up, the you that is you, wouldn’t be here.  Then you had to survive! And there’s another billion reasons why you should not have made it to this moment, to be reading this.

So just when you think you are not “special”….HA!  Think again!  The odds are so stacked against your likelihood, it IS a miracle you are here!

Are you related to someone famous?  Do you know?  Have you tracked back your ancestry?  Or, has someone in your family done it for you?  Sometimes it’s kind of spooky!  You may find out you have married your second cousin, or maybe you mother was playing patty-cake with a former president.  How the heck DID you get here?

Back a bunch of centuries ago…(this is NOT a precise science), a guy by the name of Rorrim invented a way for people to actually see them selves.  It was a big deal.  Before that, the only way people couls ever see what they looked like was to look down into the reflection of a calm pond of water.  Now we all know we don’t look so hot bending over, facing straight down and seeing a deep blue/black version of us, but that was it.  The problem is, the image we see of ourselves is reversed.  So this great invention by Rorrim has forever been known as a Mirror.

It’s still backwards.  So, rich royalty-types, commissioned artists of the day, to make pretty realistic paintings of the family members.  They got grander and bigger as time and generations went on.  Artists were encouraged to use their “license”, to add all sorts of fanciful angels floating about the poser’s head and body, displaying magnificent military clothing, holding golden swords, whilst mounted massive white war horses, serfs struggling on crutches in the background…. and those were the babies.  But it was at least a “likeness” that the Royal Family “Poser”.

Then, dang-it, in the Eighteenhundreds, the fil-um camera was invented.  And soon enough, those camera guys started pointing their lenses at PEOPLE.  But the problem was, these cameras were invented to record “still-lifes”.  The light had to travel through the lens to the light-sensitive material for a LOOOOOOOONG time.  Like minutes or hours…so it wasn’t much faster than posing for the Royal Artist……but it was black and white, and the hipsters of that era loved black and white, so for over a hundred years, the photographer simply had to omit the “color water” and supply black and white pitchers.  But the exposure was still slow, so the now-out-of-work-royal-artists put away their brushes and palettes for cameras and chemicals.  They knew all the tricks of the trade. (Have you ever tried to get a baby to hold up a gold sword, still, for hours?) So the once royal artists fabricated chairs, stools and floor stands with steel rods attached.  The poser would be seated or standing and the steel rod would hold the person into a still life for the long exposure.  When the artist had everything ready, he’d un-cap the lens, scream “HOLD IT, HOLD IT……..!” on and on until the “time” was up.  Then the baby could drop the sword.  That’s why all the really old photos you see of portraits all have the expressions look like they were trying to hold in a huge burrito fart.  That’s Because They Were.

So, time passed, “fil-um” got more sensitive, lights got invented, then they got brighter, things became less expensive to manufacture, and the royal artist became as available as a hairdresser.  It was a great deal!  People, tired of trying to mail mirrors, cause they got broken so easily, started getting portraits made.  They went through the mail much easier.  People started getting portraits at big milestones.  Soon, there was a photographic recording of a person’s life history!  What an amazing time!

And, as people tend to do, they die.  But the photo lives on.  It’s a silent, still record of that person.  The photos get passed around, move from generation to generation, but there he is, in living black and white, great old uncle Harry.  You can put a face with a name.  You can see family resemblances…(or NOT).  But for what ever reason that person “got a portrait”, decades later, it’s a silent gift to you, to be able to see what a former generation of you looked like….NEVER in the history, could the current generation “look” back into the past, and see what someone looked like one hundred plus years ago.

Photography Records.

It can capture the best or the worst.  It’s a communication/time device that freezes an instant for ever.

Then, something else happened.

The serfs bought the cameras and the royal artists were now put out to tending fields with hoes.  Since the serfs had the camera, they were the ‘artists’.  Pretty soon, the most mundane things were the objects caught in front of the lens.  It’s like, who needs a piano in their parlor (or needs to learn to learn to play it?) when this-here record player will make music by just putting this tiny needle down on this spinning black disk.

So, in one generation, the serfs stopped going to the royal artist and did it themselves.  MOST empowering!  Next, comes Do-It-Yourself Surgery.

Great Uncle Harry, I’m sure, had no concept of 2011.  But there he is!  Frozen forever.  Did he always look just like this?  Well, no, but we can infer……

I’m also sure that in the moment Great Uncle Harry was at the royal artist, he was in that moment, not hitting the cosmic fast forward button.  How could he have known who would be looking at that photo in the future?  But YOU, a product of him….CAN!  He, quite possibly by accident, left to you one of his greatest gifts.  More important than money.  It is a view to a different time and a different person, that happens to where you came from.

The Part of Him, that has become,  right now, the Beautiful YOU!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

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