Recognize frame, then ‘unframe’

Frames are an important part of our lives. Indeed they are crucial elements of the mind’s architecture. They simplify things, we believe. They offer reference points. They abstract from the complex and offer something that’s manageable when it comes to dealing with the complexity.

An easy way to understand this is to look at a photograph. Another way is to use your camera or phone to take a picture. Both the before and after are instructive. Before we take a photograph we knowingly or unknowingly ‘frame’ things. We can take a photograph of a cat, a tree, a pebble, a crowd, a bridge or anything else, but we have to frame it.

Think of a cat-photo.We can ‘place’ the cat anywhere within the frame and that can make a difference. We could consider different angles which would give us the cat in different shapes. The amount of light and the shades of the cat and other objects within the frame would make for many options.

Perhaps we are only interested in the cat, but focusing on the creature will necessarily mean we leave other things out. Maybe if we looked around we might find something else that’s more compelling for capture. However, if we want the cat it’s the cat we will get. On the other hand, one could reason that the cat would be there later too, although ‘later’ might offer a different set of options in terms of light and shade, other elements within the frame, angle, etc. The cat-fixation could mean that we missed forever the rarest butterfly or the gaze of a girl from a window.

Now let’s consider ‘after.’ It’s framed. We focus on the visual and the text(s) therein. It’s all abstracted from the rest of the universe (of our concerns). Just for a moment, of course. Now we can see the cat, the play of light and shade, the juxtapositions, intended or otherwise.

And we can let our imagination wander. We can start with the ‘whatifs’ as certain critics often do. That angle instead of this, perhaps at a different time in the day, how about moving that saucer just a teeny bit nearer the cat, now if only it was a black cat and not white, would have been better if the cat was perched on a wall, stretching instead of crouched etc., etc. Why a cat, one can ask. What’s outside the room (outside the frame, essentially).

The mind wanders. In and out of frame. The hard thing of course is to erase the frame altogether, to remove the (false) distinction of ‘inside’ and ‘outside,’ to recognize frames as transient entities, conveniences in fact, use them when you have to but always being conscious that they are by and large arbitrary.

Take this picture. It’s all about frames and reflections. Even the Buddha, symbolized by statue, is framed when the doctrine speaks of the subjectivity of frames. We ‘see’ the Buddha and miss the doctrine. Of course it is not that ‘seeing’ the doctrine should necessarily involve ‘unseeing’ the Buddha. We can note frame or rather be conscious of it, which, interestingly is not all that common a practice. The tendency is to see things as being (necessary) fixtures of a given landscape.

We see a child but cannot extrapolate to a wrinkled, bent-with-age, infirm version of a few decades later. We see an old woman and the lines that life has etched on her face stop us from seeing a young woman in love, a worry-free little girl skipping around a flower garden.

We are trapped in frames of time and space. Nothing wrong in that. No prescription comes labeled ‘Imperative.’

We can reflect though. We can retire frames and perhaps that’s one way of retiring reflection too.

Frames and Reflections
They are made for reference
conditional truths
the back and forth of gaze
the dull reproduction
relativity of size
transience of capture —
and hands clasped in worship
seeking the eyes
that would frames dissolve.


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