Non, je ne regrette rien (1/3)

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till its gone?

Joni Mitchell’s ironically chirpy chorus seems to gain traction with the passing years. Big Yellow Taxi links her feelings of personal loss to the destruction of our common environment and thereby suggests a deep connection between private and public worlds. No man is an island, of course, and if you try to live in a bubble it will sooner or later go … er … pop!

That last sentence also summarises the story of The Omega Man, a 1971 movie which conjures up dystopian visions of a future where disease has triumphed over human ingenuity. We follow one survivor patrolling shockingly empty city streets, stealing into a movie house to watch a 1969 documentary which followed almost half a million people at the festival cheerfully billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”.

He appears to know only too well what he has lost. The significance of things, it turns out, only becomes clear when what they are not throws them into sharp relief. Value is comparative.

Sometimes the comparison can be painful. Often laughter acts as an analgesic. I laughed the other day when I heard a newspaper cartoon described on the radio: a mushroom cloud rises in the distance and one diner says to another, ‘Ah, to hell with it, pass the egg salad!’

Gallows humour, perhaps, but with it comes perspective. This isn’t that. Science in a nutshell. We might not know what this is but we know what it isn’t. A theory can only be proved false, not true. It might fit the observable facts but another theory yet to be invented might fit them better. And what if more facts come to light?

The same applies to beliefs. I might believe in fairies – might even tell you I’ve seen them – but I won’t be able to persuade you until you’ve witnessed them with your own eyes. Not unless you’re peculiarly pliable. Which you aren’t, of course. You need first-hand evidence.

Image result for conan doyle fairies

Convinced yet?

Your silence speaks volumes. Permit me to put words in your disenfranchised lips. You would rather be hung, drawn and quartered than give any credence to this ludicrous Edwardian fraud involving painted paper cut-outs.

In fact, you would go further and reject all photography as an unreal fabrication which reduces our beauteous, infinitely varied world to a grubby hall of distorting mirrors or a grotesque chamber of lifeless waxworks. A photograph, you maintain, is the lie at the heart of advertising and the fake news that blinds us to what is real. You warn that its glossy surface of just two dimensions can turn us from active participants into passive spectators, obsessed with appearances and hooked on visual cues to the detriment of deeper understandings. Those ignorant primitives who reacted to photographs of themselves with terror that their souls had been stolen were, you cry, not so ignorant or primitive after all!

Wild though your demeanour seems, you have a point. There are now so many photographs in the world that their value has hit rock-bottom. The problem is that they lack any kind of context and have become drained of meaning – much as all those washed-out photos of us with our long hair, wide flares and tank tops have leached colour. Interesting that the black-and-white pictures taken by earlier, less snap-happy generations seem to have retained their power.

Image result for 1930s depression photos
If black-and-white wins, perhaps it’s because it doesn’t pretend to be real. It offers a
representation of the world that allows natural light and shade to define relationship
without the distraction of man-made colour. Industry has a lot to answer for.
My text has slipped into an odd spacing, which may be a sign that the WordPress
household gods are angry. Time to wind this post up, methinks, with a promise – or
threat, perhaps – that there is more to come: childhood, creativity, context, character,
conservation, connectivity, collectivisation … and that’s just the words beginning with
I feel a three-part post coming on. I’m not a systematic thinker and depend on one thing
leading to another. When the trail goes cold, it doesn’t do to pretend you’re close to the
quarry. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
There’s no better way to end this effulgence than to quote my cousin, who ended her
latest e-mail with this confession:
My mind is like a crazed Beagle, following threads of criss-crossing scent.
I suspect there’s something in the genes … or in the water!
Ah well – nothing ventured, nothing gained! In the immortal words of The Little
Sparrow …
Au revoir!


23 thoughts on “Non, je ne regrette rien (1/3)

    1. I think it was Karl Popper who said it. I’ve just found this example on Wikipedia:

      “All swans are white” can be proven false and is hence a falsifiable statement, since evidence of black swans proves it to be false and such evidence can be provided. Were the statement true, however, it would be hard to prove true.

    1. I think we can allow them their moment of fame – they certainly provided the world with much entertainment and food for thought. I’ve always found it fascinating that Arthur Conan Doyle was such an ardent believer, he who had invented the world’s most famous analytical detective!

  1. “A theory can only be proved false, not true”. That’s not quite correct. We can construct abstract logical systems (such as mathematics) within which we can propose theories and some of those theories can be proved to be true. Fascinatingly, in any formal system rich enough to include ordinary maths, some such theories are true but can never be proved. That was proved by the Austrian mathematician and philosopher, Kurt Gödel, in 1931.

    1. I suppose that shows the limitations of closed systems of thought in apprehending ‘reality’. The theory that some theories are true but can never be proved is, I would have thought, itself a theory that falls into its own category and therefore both contains and is contained by itself. Phew! The mind boggles, at least mine does! As I said, I’m not a systematic thinker so struggle with such concepts. I prefer to juggle images and spin a web of words.

  2. Seeing things with your own eyes, living the experience. Unless you were there you can’t get it.
    You took me back Dave – I haven’t thought about the Omega Man for a long time. Despite Charlton Heston being such a gun-loving republican I loved those two Sci-fi films he made back then – the Omega Man and Soylent Green. He should have made more like that.

    1. Yeah, 2 thought-provoking films, much underrated. Soylent Green also had a fine performance – possibly his last? – by Edward G Robinson.

      Talking of Heston’s politics, I suppose the words he mouths in synch with the film express his character’s fear and isolation rather than any real sympathy with the ideals of the flower power generation. The clip has a continuing resonance, I feel.

  3. Too many photos and not enough actual experience. It puts a wall between us and the rest of the world (including other humans). Sometimes I walk down the street and 90% of the people I see are glued to their cell phones. No wonder we are destroying the world; we never even look at it. It’s just a photo. (K)

    1. I think we’re on the same page (not web page!) here – it’s like driving towards a precipice which our SatNav is telling us isn’t there. I want to pick this up in my next post – a photo is a selection of the truth, not the whole of it. Something like that.

  4. Interesting point about photography Dave. It’s so easy to take pictures these days, you can even take pictures with your phone and upload, download and delete at will. If you look at some of the great photos of the past there was care and expertise in every step, focussing, framing, taking the picture, developing, printing. All done with the click of your electronic device these days.

    1. Indeed, Steve, you had to take more care when film was expensive and anything but instant! One gets the impression that people don’t go places to look and remember but to take pictures and edit … I take a camera, of course, but I also like drawing and jotting down words/phrases.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.