Thursday, September 03, 2009

Second Time

Recently I was taking pictures of a man I greatly admire.  I will call him Will for the sake of anonymity.  Will is, as he likes to say is of a certain age.  I have always thought of Will as a buddha.  He is genuine and serene.  He is interested, engaging and invested in this life and the people around him.  When he hears of the internal suffering of others he smiles encouragingly and will often say "Isn't that interesting how we do that."  He has a way of acceptance and love that is gentle and light but at the same time is freeing and profound.
Will has apparently not always been a buddha.  He has suffered in unspeakable ways from the day of his birth.  The suffering before his memory was explained to him by his parents who were also responsible for it.  I have heard of people who feel like they were raised by wolves.  Will's parents make the wolves seem like Mother Teresa.  To this day his mind still goes to a place of disgust when he sees his picture.  And so it was a huge boon to me that Will let me photograph him.  Will and I have sat and looked at these pictures for several hours on different occasions.  We talk about what we see in the face of my friend.  I found tears flowing down my face as I tried to convey what I saw and how it made me feel.  Will held the same kindness in his voice as he talked about what he saw but it was both sad and brave and powerfully beautiful.  His face was no less dry than mine.
During the afternoon when I was photographing Will I said "Will, you are a beautiful man."  His response was surprising and beautifully honest.  He told me that this was only the second time in his life that anyone had told him that he was beautiful.  He said the first time was when he was 20 and he thought that was about something different than what I was talking about.  He told me how surprised he was at how it made him feel, how he had not realized how much he had been wanting to hear those words.  It makes me cry to think of that moment.
I happen to know many people who know Will.  We all talk about him.  Just tonight a man who has an office down the hall from me told me that last night Will was in his dream.  Everyone I know who knows Will thinks he is an amazing, wonderful, beautiful man.  I had of course told Will how everyone felt about him, and then encouraged people to tell Will just exactly what they thought of him.  Life is too short to be ignorant of the love others have for us.
This is in a way a sad story.  I can not go back in time and protect or love Will.  We can never change the past.  I am sure every one around Will assumed that he was confident in his beauty.  It seems to me such a loss that someone who had suffered so much was unaware of the succor around him.  The good in this story is powerful for me.  I have come to know my buddha like friend so much better.  I am more aware of what I take for granted.  I feel more free and braver in telling the truth of any beauty or kindness I see in others. 
Thank you Will.  I love you.

1 comment:

AlisonH said...

Thank you, John. The world needs more people unafraid to be grateful.