A sunny autumn day lured me and my camera outdoors. I roamed aimlessly around the neighbourhood taking pictures of the simplest of things, like traffic posts, door frames, shadows on walls, or pavement lines. I sought nothing extraordinary, and found something comforting in the simplicity of my subjects.
And thus while making my way down the streets and alleys of northern Osaka, I found myself reflecting on a book I had recently finished: Hardcore Zen, by Brad Warner.
Or perhaps it was the other way around—the book had lingered in my mind and it was only now that I was noticing it.
For apart from its illustrative drawing of parallels between punk rock and Zen Buddhism, Hardcore Zen introduces the reader to a concept central to Zen: the focus on the present moment. While the author asserts that punk rock and Zen find common ground in their principles of questioning authority and being non-conformist in nature, he also stresses the stripping away of idealism, illusions, and notions of past and future in order to focus instead on what lies before oneself: a reality rooted in the present, however banal it may be, and where, importantly, insight can manifest itself. Central to this goal is the practice of meditation, which is both absurdly simple and difficult at the same time. (Paradox appears to be an abundant motif in Zen readings, at least for the novice).
By striving to ground oneself to the here and now, steady meditation can bring balance, clarity, and perspective to an otherwise hectic world.
It is in a similar vein that an activity which absorbs a person enables a “losing of oneself in time”. As for mindful pursuits, photography may be regarded as having a particularly interesting connection with time because the end result of that activity, the photograph, can be an artifact of the complete engagement of the photographer and not merely a snap of the so-called past. As for the genre of street photography, it has been described as an attempt to “transcend the everyday”. It does this by toying with content, space, and compositional elements.
Overhead a constant stream of airplanes flew by while descending on their approach to the city airport a few kilometres away to the northwest.