Chapter 21. Death and Resurrection

I have been struggling with Martin Heidegger lately, and I’m still not quite certain I fully grasp the thinker. Nevertheless I must say that I’ve come away with some ideas that I think are rather interesting to me.

As I’ve written in several chapters, photography inclines one in a variety of ways to enter into a kind of evaluative, and hence practical mode of thought, and that in turn emerges the focal viewpoint, just as our grasp of what truly matters becomes more keen. Now it’s occured to me that, basically, when one is confronted with a limitation, with the closing down of infinite possibilities, then one enters the focal viewpoint–precisely because one can no more squander opportunities, but must choose.

Now the horizon of death, which we all face, imposes precisely that kind of limitation to our lives; when we are exisiting with the knowledge that we will die one day, we begin to take more seriously the time we have, and begin to decide what to put into the time we still have, and to discard what deserves less of our time and attention. We begin also to think through what is important and what is not, what is choice-worthy and what is not, what is good and evil.

Thus the peering through the viewfinder in photography is analogous to one’s being-toward-death. In this recognition that we are dying, we begin really to live: to exist with a consciousness of what matters, and what does not. We become, or are readied to become ethical. In dying, we are resurrected: we are now more fully alive then when previously we were dead in our careless squandering.

In a sense also, there is here, in photography, just as there is in the being-towards-death, a kind of theory, or theoria as the Greeks meant it. That is to say, thea+horao, the looking of the god[dess] at us to disclose to us+our pious looking back. It is not by our sheer will power that this ethical comportment is achieved; rather the dynamism is the other way around. It is experienced as given to us, disclosed to us, un-hidden to us. We did not develop it, or deduce it. We did not work it out. Rather, we looked (through the viewfinder) and that ethical comportment was given, and hence “looked back”. Just as someone looks towards the horizon of death, and then it was given back, saying: “you need to spend your existence meaningfully, on the important things, and therefore, live.”

Heidegger said that only a god could save us, and that is true. In the theory of photography, we the dead may begin to live.