Just over two weeks ago I was in Yosemite Valley leading a private class. Maybe it was because my mind was on instructing and making sure my student came away with photos that he would be happy with that I was not able to see. Or perhaps it was because my mind was preoccupied with other life consuming worries that always tend to work themselves out in the end. Or maybe I could not see because I have lost my photographic vision. When I say ‘see’ I mean seeing photographically of course. I was having a terrible time seeing things to photograph even in one of the most photogenic locations anywhere – Yosemite Valley!
On one of the morning sessions we found ourselves wandering among Cottonwood trees near the Merced River among the grasses along its bank. There we found a ocean of fallen Cottonwood leaves among the grass. It was a frustrating morning, not moved by anything I saw to even raise the camera, the fallen leaves suddenly made an impression on me and I began to photograph. As I wandered among the grass and leaves one unique leaf stood out to me among all the rest.
A Dead Heart
I was stopped dead in my tracks as I looked upon this blackened leaf lying there in the shape of a heart. A cold shiver ran down my spine as I looked on and pondered why I was seeing such a gruesome reminder of the fragility of our hearts to the diseases that can plague it and cause it die a spiritual death; a death that occurs due to an ever growing black blemish that can envelope the whole of the heart and kill its spiritual light if the heart is not protected and cleansed from the wrong actions we commit.
Was I looking at the state of my own heart? For as of late, I have come to realize that we see out in the world what we harbor in our own hearts. Was I seeing my own dead heart? Was this the reason for my inability to see the beauty that lay all around me? I shuddered at the thought. Have I allowed the worries and tribulations of life to lead me down a path that is strangling the life out of my own heart?
I quickly turned up to look at the face of El Capitan, the single largest monolithic piece of granite in the entire world. There, imprinted in its face is a heart of stone. Not a stone heart mind you but rather a heart engraved in stone.
Heart of Stone
We often label a person who is cruel and devoid of compassion as one who is hardhearted. But here was a symbol of resolve and certitude, a monolith of immense grandeur exhibiting its heart for all to see, a heart impervious to any disease or ailment, a heart of stone.
Perhaps the secrete to protecting the heart is to make it impervious to the travails thrown at it by the world through nurturing sincerity and certitude in the One who gives us the blessings of a heart in the first place? Perhaps by looking at the material world and becoming desirous of its charms allows the one ailment that weakens the shield of certitude that protects the heart to enter and cause the heart to waiver and quake with fear.
Give up on chasing after the world and its charms. Absolve yourself of petty desires, comforts and false hopes. Live in the moment and soak in the magnificence, splendor and magnanimity of the Creator that manifests all around us. Stop chasing after the light that you may trap it in a photo and let the light come to you. God forbid that we don’t take care of our heart and protect it from becoming black and dead and thus killing the heart’s penetrating eye that allows us to see truth as true so that we may follow it and falsehood as false that we may abandon it. God Forbid!