Friend or Foe

Yesterday morning’s rain didn’t dampen my hopes for getting out with the camera. In fact, I could see from the weather app that we were in for about 36 hours of rain, so I decided to try to use it to my advantage.

When I left home, my intention was to get to downtown Tampa but when I got to the end of my road, I turned left instead of right and went to downtown Lakeland.

Downtown Lakeland is much less urban than Tampa and to me it feels like a very non-descript little town. But it has streets which would be wet in the rain and on a weekday morning it might have a little traffic that I can use. Hell, it even has a railway line crossing the road … my god, what else could I ask for?

No, but seriously, I have shot long exposure within the tall buildings of the Tampa streets so I figured it might make a change to work within the confines of smaller buildings and wider roads.

The only real negative that I experienced was the fact that it was still raining and that meant the lens was going to get wet. And it did, continually. So I spent a lot of my time down there wiping the lens. By the time I was finished, the lens cloth was soaked and offered no further use in drying the lens, so frankly, that is how I decided when the shoot was over.

It was still a fun little adventure though and I was glad I went. The warm-burning street lights cast a lovely amber glow across each shot and the wet streets gave me the kind of light reflections I was hoping for.

I wandered a block or two east from where I parked and came across a fountain that gave a lovely misty effect when shot at a four second exposure and there were come cool light streaks happening in some of the surrounding trees that added an unusual effect in the darkness.

I hope you enjoy. My favorite (by far) is the very last shot. I set up beside a bus and a pickup truck that were waiting at a red light and when the light turned green, I clicked the shutter and let it expose again for about four seconds. I love the end effect.

My thought for today’s blog didn’t materialize until I got home though. You see, I had deliberately left the door to the office ajar so that the cats were neither locked in or out in the rain while I was gone. I know I took a gamble with potential pilferers, but I decided their comfort was more important to me than anything in there that could have been stolen.

I also imagined that it might let any of the wild-life creatures in, should they want to eat from the cat food dishes inside and sure enough, when I got back, there was a lovely little possum munching happily away.

The cats didn’t mind. There were two or three around him and they all seem to get along. I’ve noticed the same about the raccoons that come by too. They and the cats seem totally comfortable that they share a space without incident.

When the possum saw me, he immediately left though. Apparently I don’t have the furry charm of a cat. And that is what got me thinking.

He obviously decided “foe” in the friend or foe question and with our difference in sizes, he made what he felt was the best decision for his well-being, and left.

It upset me (on a tiny level) as I try hard to present myself as a friend to all creatures … particularly the wild ones. My Dr. Doolittle impression obviously fails as even though I try talking to all of them, it rarely reassures. But I keep trying anyway.

Over time, I have made a little bit of progress with some possums, raccoons, and birds, but nothing that will line me up for the main role in the next remake of that movie. But even a moderate amount of progress feels good on my end and hopefully reassures them on their end that this strange old man means no harm.

This friend or foe decision for creatures is very much a life-level decision and so I completely understand their reluctance to give me a benefit of the doubt.

But we humans also make many friend or foe decisions that have much less personal danger involved and that is the road my thoughts began to take.

You see, we continually try to determine or characterize things as good or bad, black or white, right or wrong, when 99% of everything we encounter is not an “either or” situation.

You would think by now, we would understand that everything in our lives is merely a shade of grey and not absolute in any direction. The notion of pure good or pure evil is a religious concept that has spilled over into how we view so much of what happens around us. The battle of god vs devil is a fantasy story that shapes our mind into thinking that anything that contradicts our notion of a god must therefore be something evil.

And we carry that characterization into everything we encounter.

When armies go to war, everyone believes they have god on their side, so therefore the opposition must be evil. This characterization allows us to hate …. the evil nazis, the evil confederacy, the evil brits, the evil gooks … whoever loses was the evil one.

As Hitler once said “history is written by the victors” and in so writing it, we assume that the good guys always win. But there are no good guys. There are just guys. Guys with a different take on life than the guys they are fighting against.

Generations of Hollywood goers have been treated to endless movies that repeat this same formula … the “bad guy” always loses in the end. And even when a good guy loses or dies, they painfully seek to express some character flaw in the guy, so that we don’t bemoan his death too much.

When these characterizations only exist in the extremes of conflict and wars, that is bad enough. But I have noticed in recent evolution of culture wars, the same characterizations. Evil democrats steal our elections. Evil doctors abort innocent little babies. Evil government is trying to take our guns away.

Wherever you stand on any issue, the other side is nearly always characterized as evil any more.

When we characterize in this manner, it allows us to hate and nothing mobilizes the masses more than hate.

In my opinion, hate is the most powerful feeling on the planet. It can drive us forward more than any other emotion. Love, on the other hand is a softer emotion. It drives us a certain distance but almost never to an extreme.

Harnessing hate has been a practice that certain groups have cultivated over the years and by confronting it head on, we will always lose. You can’t beat someone out of hating, but you can educate them.

You educate them on understanding.

And in understanding others with different viewpoints and motivations, they will have to discard their own feelings of being absolutely right about anything. Which means the god concept has to stop. Absolute good and absolute truth only exist in fairy tales.

Real life requires understanding and acceptance.

… just a thought.