Monday, August 2, 2010

Comparison is the thief of joy

One needn't look far for the signs of a world in violent distress. Its the 21st century and wars still plague us, the disproportionate allocation of wealth away from the 3rd world is mind boggling, our celebrity role models tend towards the gossipy un-evolved alcoholic type, women are still be persecuted for being women and the rate at which we're damaging this planet is truly staggering. 

Here's the thing: All the violence we witness in the world is simply an extension of the violence we all carry around in ourselves. Its absolutely impossible to commit violence if you have purged yourself of the anger, jealousy and insecurity that you harbor within.

Most of us take pride in our peaceful interaction with the world but inside there maybe a raging river of violent discontent. Society has conditioned us to believe that lashing out is wrong, so instead we 'lash inwards'

As photographers (or any other artist) we often fall into the mother of all violent 'inner-traps:' Comparison

Comparison leads to envy and envy leads to hate and hate leads to...the dark side. 

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

The artistic dark side is a swirling mess of apathetic narcissism which seeks only to perpetuate its own misery. Its the part of us that loves it when others fail and that revels in the smug satisfaction of being judged 'better' than someone. Its the small insecure shadow self that lives in perpetual fear of failure and being found out as a fraud. It paralyzes us with doubt.

In a nutshell...its the source of the violence within us.

The solution is simple awareness. Awareness is like a flashlight that illuminates our dark side, bringing our shadow to light. Awareness heals the divide that splits us and causes pain.

In the Yogic tradition they teach awareness through Breath, by becoming aware of your breath you begin to open up that tight space within, loosening the vice grip. Soon, your awareness transfers to your thinking and before long you are able to positively influence your thought process and from there, well....your world absolutely transforms.

If you find yourself comparing simply take a breath and know that each person's success is really your success. Each brilliant photographers' work that you see simply means that your own genius is possible. Maybe you'll find that another's failing is your opportunity to teach and heal. 

Whatever your religious or spiritual or artistic outlook may be, I can't think of a better goal than one's own Wholeness. The fact is that if we are to heal this world, we must first heal ourselves...its the only way. 

as Gandhi famously said...'we must be the Change we want to see in the world."


jesse said...

Thank you very much for this post.

I'm a new photographer just cutting my teeth in the industry. I'm trying to find my vision, figure out what I want to shoot and how to do it, what equipment I need and all while trying to pay my bills. It's hard and I often find myself getting cynical and wanting to give up because even after 2-3 years of working I'm still not producing the work I want to getting the jobs I want. When other local photographers call me a hack or I have a shoot or two that doesn't go my way and I just want to give up.

To add more insult, I then spend hours looking at their work and comparing it to mine when I should strap the camera to my face and just go make some photographs.

Your work has served as a real inspiration for me (even though my industry is very different from yours), but I think your philosophy has inspired me even more to keep going and work as hard as I can and one day, I'll take a photograph that I'm truly proud of.


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Brian Bray said...

Beautifully articulated Martin.

robert jaudon said...


Thank you for the post. Your statements are ones we should all strive for. Beautiful post.


AB said...

hey Martin...found ur write-up & the pic concept very thought provoking...makes one ponder over a lotta keep posting!!