Ugly Universe

“You really should try to be a nicer person,” Mr Omar said after I snapped at one of his jokes as he walked through the door.  I had just put a praying mantis back and the garden after photographing it and was still edgy from the experience. With the exception of a few favorites, I am mostly afraid of bugs.

But I have a deep respect for longevity, and, since bugs have survived quite happily for millions of years and are in reality quite useful to us (despite the many experiences with infested garden vegetables suggesting otherwise), I am trying to learn to appreciate them.

And photographing insects is working, in a way. Sometimes the bugs, like the conga-dancing spider too small to see with the naked eye, take no effort at all to like. Others, like his gigantic, hairy cousin, are a lot more of a stretch. But I am getting there. After a while, the traumatic memories of photographing subside and ugly instagrams of mostly unpalatable monsters become familiar; in some cases, even cute.

I’ve learned to love much of the world through a camera lens. It’s been mentioned time and again in other posts and confessions, though recently is perhaps the first time I’ve actually questioned that practice. Mr. Omar is right; I probably should be nicer, but it’s a difficult remark to take when you think like a camera.

There are snapshots of so, so many people in my head I’ve thought of, and I guess in a way, cared about. Pictures of people I don’t even know and couldn’t now pick out of a crowd but my brain seemed to think important enough to remember. Random guy who corrected my French ten years ago. The lady who looked like she wanted to murder me when I ordered an orange juice. The one whose father died, whose grandmother has cancer, whose boyfriend is good but also not, (and is the not really an issue?…let me talk about it now)… who likes this flavor of ice cream and who did this that one weekend, who’s not allowed to go home and who hates that one, particular sports team. So, so many people get stuck in my head, and very few know.

Even less would ever guess; if you meet me, it hardly looks like I’m interested. I’m too busy noticing the person behind me talking, the one who just walked through the door, the light on the other side of the room, the books on the desk, the pen on the floor, the pattern on the shirt, the drink on the table…absorbing and compressing everything into a single memory I cannot help but take, like the details (so many details) in my books.

And then later, much later, in the quite of typing on the computer or adjusting the color curves of an image, the unecessary details begin to fall away and I remember you. What you said. How you were. I will wonder what you’re doing now, if things got better, or if your family is still troublesome. I will remember. And care, likely more than you will ever know.

As I cropped the photograph of an ugly spider and adjusted the lighting, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s the point of it. Does it matter if you find a spider cute when you’re editing the photo if when it was in front of you all you could think about was running away? Is it okay to write lovingly about a cockroach when you resort to murderous chemicals everytime you see one? Do people somehow know when you’ve remembered them? I mean it’s tiring also. The spider doesn’t give a damn about you, and neither do many people.

I really don’t know if it makes a difference or not. I hope it does. The world deserves more love.  In my case, I know I need to work on loving what’s in front of me. In caring more constructively.  If you’re reading this and the world happens to seem uglier than the underside of a spider right now because of all those people who don’t give a damn, it’s perhaps good to note that there are likely also many more people like me whom you’ve actually met, who see and remember and care about you, more than you know.