Friday, October 30, 2015

Victory to Truth and Honor: A Salutation Like No Other

For me and for so many other street and social documentary photographers, and especially those of us coming from a Humanist position, creating good photos that celebrate humanity and tell stories and show scenes that enrich the viewer, it is not enough to have the right camera, understand composition and the rest. Of course I for one will never know enough to fully do justice to the work I do. But like all things in life, it's a lifelong learning process.

No, for me and those others, the making of good work comes from a broader based learning. It comes from an engagement with other art forms and movements. It comes from an ongoing study into what makes us human, why we do what we do. It comes from a knowledge of how society functions, how we all fit into our environment. In other words, in order to be a good street or social documentary photographer I believe that one has to at least be making the attempt to become a well informed, well rounded, human being.

Today's post isn't directly about these ideas. It's more about an aspect of communication in which we have the opportunity to not only revive an old courtesy that seems to be fading away, but also to let others know a little at least of what drives us: the ongoing and never-ending pursuit of honor and truth.

A while back I reconnected with a very good friend. We'd been out of touch for a many years, and I tell you it was really good to hear from him again. I think we've kind of taken off just where we left off. Anyway, I was looking at old emails from him (he used to send his poetry out to people on his list; ah, the good old days when you had to actually email people to share your writing, thoughts, ideas, whatever), and I noticed a really nice sentence he used on one as a way of signing off. He wrote:
Vishwa dharma ki jai

This is Sanskrit and means (according to my friend), 'victory to universal truth and honour'. When I read this expression, I was moved. Now, I don't have a problem with 'yours sincerely' or 'kind regards' and so on, as ways of signing off  an email or (just imagine)  a letter. Indeed, I think those salutations (is that the right word?) can be meaningful and can carry heartfelt and sincere wishes from one person to another.

However, as with all things we do 'automatically' and as a matter of course, these expressions seem to  have lost much, if not all their true meanings. In fact, how often do we get emails with no such signing off, and with merely the sender's name at the bottom? Actually, now I think about it, I remember emails that have no name signing off. On the face of it that might seem rude, but most often it isn't: people and  the way they communicate are changing; I guess some of these so-called 'niceties' are just naturally going to be lost.

So, when I read my friend's Sanskrit salutation, I thought, hey, I'm going to make sure that I for one do not forget these traditional expressions of good wishes and salutation. And what better salutation for a truth seeker (that's me) than my friend's?

It might be that a wish for the victory of universal truth and honor sounds a bit old fashioned, a bit formal even. Not at all: how up to date, how necessary in our materialistic, fast-paced and sometimes lonely and corrupt world, is it to seek truth and to act with honor. Honor isn't the fuddy-duddy, formal term you might think. Look it up: it's about honesty, truth, right behavior, integrity, all that good and right stuff.

So, I'm going to try to use this great salutation whenever I can. After all, it does say a lot about my attitude to my work as a street and social documentary photographer.

And my message to you, dear reader? Vishwa dharma ki jai

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