Sunday, May 7

Are Cultures the Sum of What Their Fish Won't See?

Freud taught, “Cultures are defined by what they ban.”

Fresh eyes see the invisible. 

Guy passing fish tank sez to its denizens, "How's the water today?" 
Fish think, "What water?"

On a morning stroll you veer around a trash dumpster and continue but that big green metal thing goes unlogged in your memory. Later you pass a fire hydrant, a couple of poles sporting graffiti, a woman carrying groceries, and you step over a puddle: none of them get  logged in either. The ordinary's as invisible to us as water to the thinking fish. 

Fresh eyes see the invisible. 

Here's  a busy Istanbul July mid-day... Could it be anywhere? Vienna? Boston? Kampala? Hong Kong? Maybe it's Ushuaia, Calarney, or Nome? Nope, the details in this one image rule all of them away. Perhaps  Havana? Well, this summer woman, sandaled, scarfed, and coated won't fit there. And the corn vendor's probably not a common fixture in any of those places. Yet... the details that we see are invisible to Turks. An Istanbul photographer'd ignore this moment... her brain'd dump it into a "commonplace" bin. 

Fresh eyes see extra-ordinary details: Stuff that's so Turkish that Turks don't.... perhaps can't ... see it. Their eyes are blind to the green bricks, a licensed cobbed-corn vendor, and the boys gyrating about their bundled-up caretaker (mother? nanny? guardian? herder?). Cultures are revealed by their unexceptional. moments.

Show this image to a guy from Central Pennsylvania and he'll wonder why that woman's scarfed then snuggly  buttoned into a winter coat while the many men are summer clothed. And the answer might take centuries to unravel.

To me Lancaster, my home in Pennsylvania, is like that - what it doesn't see my mind can't ponder. Just wondering... Are cultures the sum of what their fish can't see?