Machines of Loving Grace

Pay Machine (black and white photograph)
Pay Machine (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis
Pay Machine (black and white photograph)
Pay Machine (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
by Richard Brautigan

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

***

I’ve just begun reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Though published in 1974 it strikes me that there is plenty here of relevance today, almost 50 years later. It’s certainly very relevant to me.

“The cause of our current social crises, he would have said, is a genetic defect within the nature of reason itself. And until this genetic defect is cleared, the crises will continue. Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world. Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is…emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty. That, today, is where it is at, and will continue to be at for a long time to come.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

No Trespassing (black and white photograph)
No Trespassing (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis

“You go through a heavy industrial area of a large city and there it all is, the technology. In front of it are high barbed-wire fences, locked gates, signs saying NO TRESPASSING, and beyond, through sooty air, you see ugly strange shapes of metal and brick whose purpose is unknown, and whose master you will never see. What it’s for you don’t know, and why it’s there, there’s no one to tell, and so all you can feel is alienated, estranged, as though you didn’t belong there. Who owns and understands this doesn’t want you around. All this technology has somehow made you a stranger in your own land. Its very shape and appearance and mysteriousness say, “Get out.” You know there’s an explanation for all this somewhere and what it’s doing undoubtedly serves mankind in some indirect way but that isn’t what you see. What you see is the NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT signs and not anything serving people but little people, like ants, serving these strange, incomprehensible shapes. And you think, even if I were a part of this, even if I were not a stranger, I would be just another ant serving the shapes. So the final feeling is hostile …”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Machine (black and white photograph)
Machine (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis
Jungle (black and white photograph)
Jungle (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis
Untitled (black and white photograph)
Untitled (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis)

“What’s wrong with technology is that it’s not connected in any real way with matters of the spirit and of the heart. And so it does blind, ugly things quite by accident and gets hated for that. People haven’t paid much attention to this before because the big concern has been with food, clothing and shelter for everyone and technology has provided these.

“But now where these are assured, the ugliness is being noticed more and more and people are asking if we must always suffer spiritually and esthetically in order to satisfy material needs.”

[…]

“What’s emerging from the pattern of my own life is the for belief that the crisis is being caused by the inadequacy of existing forms of thought to cope with the situation. It can’t be solved by rational means because the rationality itself is the source of the problem.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Rube Goldberg Machine (black and white photograph)
Rube Goldberg Machine (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis
Escape Route #3 (black and white photograph)
Escape Route #3 (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis

“I disagree with them about cycle maintenance, but not because I am out of sympathy with their feelings about technology. I just think that their flight from and hatred of technology is self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha…which is to demean oneself. “
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

8 Comments

    • Thanks, Richard. Nice to hear from you! Hope you’re doing well?

      Yes, very much of my work that includes people over the past few years has been centred on this type of theme, human figures lost in a man-made landscape. I’m still making photos like that, it still interests me. Eventually I suppose I will make something coherent out of all of it, I hope anyway …

  1. You know, first viewing of these images, maybe it was my mood that day, or maybe time constraint ? I don’t know… but, thought they were, “meh, okay”, that’s about it…

    Second viewing now, the last one, Escape Route #3, I really like… the one preceding it, I never noticed the lady in the lower left corner at all… and I think I was still holding onto some residual bias, because I literally had taken a very similar image myself recently (and had actually taken another similar one of the very same locale years ago), and ended up thinking it was, meh and blah… so I just quickly glossed over yours because of… the lone erect figure down the alleyway, contrasting the leaning utility poles towards his direction – great shot 👍🏼

    • Mood/being rushed certainly often affects my viewing of other people’s work too, something I try to counter mindfully by spending time/looking at the work on multiple occasions etc. It depends on the artist and whether they’ve shown me their work merits that type of attention, of course. It is difficult though, these days, because like many people my ability to concentrate and be distraction free has diminished.

      Yeah the lady in the lower left is quite important in that photo 😉

      Thanks for the comment

  2. I am not making any images for very long time, very very long time. I enjoy looking at them very much though.
    It is great Paul, that you still share your images. I am enjoying specific b&w tone of your images and searching for lost souls in them.

    My daughter is running own art gallery and she asked me to give some images for sale. As she is organizing sort of Christmas shop in her gallery with 34 artists (only two photographers). I am actually curious what is going to happen.

    • Thanks, Richard. It generally feels pointless posting my work online but I try to force myself to do it anyway. Creating a blog over time is a creative act, too, and I do get something from doing it. Often I dash off the posts quickly and the connections between some of my work become more apparent just in the quick act of writing something that the photo I am posting inspires me to write, or something I am reading inspires me to post a particular photo. It’s actually a helpful part of my whole process now that I think about it.

      It’s a shame you still aren’t making photos.  I hope you find a way.  You have a lot to offer inside you.

      That’s really cool re: your daughter.  Which of your photos are you displaying?  Let me know how it goes.

  3. – Nice you to say that about me, thanks. We shall see, said the blind man.
    – Those are old images, she likes those. I had piles of printed images and she picked some. I actually offer her first ten and she choose four out of it and then she asked me if I have more printed, so I brought pile of about fifty or so and she picked some. No idea what will be the result. I will let you know., I guess there is no way to add attachment images, here in the comment? Will send an email.

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