The question was to pick an image and use it as a stimulus to write something related to discovery… so I picked the picture of the SLR.
When I was five, my cat passed away. Of course, the experience of a pet passing away is not uncommon to many five year olds. Now that I am older, I have heard a range of first person accounts of similar experiences, except the way adults try to explain death to children seem to differ. Lots of adults like to talk about an afterlife; ‘heaven,’ ‘nirvana’ and my favourite: ‘kitty heaven.’ Others like to tell the child that the pet went away to some other ‘home.’ My father told me the truth ‘Ginger is going to sleep, and he will never wake up.’ That night I cried. My mother scolded my father for being so cold and brash. I heard her voice through the door.
There was a time once, a time when I contemplated death. I was a fierce high achiever. This habit started (ironically) after my father died. So much of me wanted to leave behind a legacy. I wanted to make him proud, I suppose it was my fucked up idea of grief. I worked extremely hard in a chemistry exam, waking up at six in the morning to drill myself with practice questions. The day came when I had to do the exam. I completed it with twenty minutes to spare, and I spent the rest of the time reading through each question (and answer) twice. I was confident that I did really well in the test.
The results came. The teacher shook my hand.
I went home, my journey consisted of skips. A merry jig. I went home, to tell my father of the news, only to discover that he wasn’t home. I called his mobile phone, just to get a glimpse of him, to hear the sound of his voice. Something. Nothing. The phone has been disconnected. I went to his work, to find him, to find that he wasn’t there. He has gone. He no longer exists. He has been dead for a year.
I sat in Julian’s office. Julian Scott B Psych (Hons), M Mus, PhD – child and adolescent psychologist. He seemed to put so much effort in trying to make his office look ‘cool.’ He wore t-shirts to work, his walls were plastered with graffiti and supported by an urban looking rug. Even the bookshelves were filled with comic books. Julian always insisted on being called ‘Jules’ or ‘Jules Rules’ though my mother always called him ‘Dr Scott.’ I called him Julian and he called me Ben. An SLR sat on his desk today. I wondered what that was about.
‘What is the SLR for?’
Julian flashed a smile, a warm one.
‘Well, actually, my nephew brought one for an overseas trip but apparently he never used it, he gave it to me since he preferred to use his phone to take pictures.’
‘Interesting, we seem to always take pictures when we are on holidays, or when we want to upload shit onto facebook or instagram.’
‘We do, funny, isn’t it?’
‘Well I hate telling you this, I always feel like you are going to whip out something therapeutic, some profound learning thing… I just hate this. Julian. What is the point to all of this? What is the point to an exam? What is the point to school? To life? My dad died. And I will die one day. So will you. Why work so god-damn hard, why be ‘good,’ why get stressed when death is going to swallow us one day… my father is dead Julian. And you have a camera. A nice and expensive camera. You will take pictures of nice objects… on your holiday, when you go to some nice foreign place… but you won’t take pictures on your commute to work. You won’t care much for the mundane. I regret this Julian. I wish I could take pictures of the normal shit, just so I can fucking cling onto it. My dad is dead Julian. Fuck, he’s dead.’
Julian’s eyes gazed intently into mine. He reached out for the SLR and placed it in my lap.
‘Maybe you can try to take pictures of the mundane now, I’m sure your father would have been proud.’