I photographed this man in Central Park, New York, in the summer of 2011.
In what is perhaps the busiest park in the world – and certainly the busiest park I have ever been in – there he was, sitting quietly and placidly amongst the trees, a little away from the crowds of people, perfectly still despite all the hubbub going on around him. He was calm, reflective, contemplative – and that struck me quite powerfully.
That man and his general demeanour offers a message to us. In a world so filled with noise and a variety of distractions, every one of them competing for our time and our attention, sometimes we just need a moment outwith ourselves.
It is all too easy to look around the world and to find ourselves filled with a sense of despondancy or – worse – despair; “everything seems out of control; everything is going wrong; I don’t know what to do.” Especially in the present day, with all the additional stress and worry of the global pandemic, and with all the political turmoil that seems to accompany it, this need is even more necessary and pressing.
In those moments, which all of us experience from time to time (and sometimes more frequently than that), we just need to stop and take a breath, like the man in the park; and then do something for ourselves – a moment out of the cares of the world. Precisely what that will be depends on us as individuals – what works for me may not work for you. Choose something calming, designed to de-stress and to allow a moment of peace. A moment is often all we need – after that, we can get back to gritty reality and carry on. But that moment is really important.
Today, let’s make sure we experience such a moment. Take the time to live it.
From the poem ‘Desiderata’ (Max Ehrmann, 1927) –
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”