That's my 16 month-old daughter Claire. Lately she's taken to stealing my iPad. She taps and slides her finger around the screen with an eagerness that leaves absolutely no room for fear. To her, the iPad is a magic window to a world she's never seen. In that window she can see videos of herself and her brother, she can hear music coming from somewhere behind the glowing screen. She smiles, stares and pretty much loves the joy of discovery that the iPad brings. I wish I could embrace new technology and ideas with her courage and verve. I wish we all could. As an adult, I devote much of my processing power to exploring worse-case scenarios, perseverating on the wrongs of my world, and managing my regret for things left undone or poorly executed. These are my moments when my eyes glaze over and I fall motionless. My brain recalls my mistakes, cautions me against risk and forces a stagger into my forward progress. Much of the time, I am too busy trying not to have fun to actually have fun.
Not Claire. She's boldly embracing new things. She's all for fucking up. I suppose in her fresh mind she's got nothing to lose and everything to gain. The truth is, she is right. We all should spend less time worrying that we might be wrong, and more time taking the shot. I don't know about you, but I could stand to loosen up a notch.
I've been getting to know my new Sony A7R Mark II camera for the past few weeks and it's a remarkable chunk of new tech. I am trying to nourish the wonder and joy I experience when I use this amazing new tool, but I find myself spending too much time reading other people's thoughts on the camera and I fear that is time I will never get back. In a comment section of a Facebook post about the camera I read a line that rang clear and true in its sarcastic glory. It said, "when they say bad things about the gear I use it makes me sad, for then I know I will never be able to take a good picture with it 'cause they said so."
If I believe the hype festering in the comments and posts of the throng of doomsayers out there, my new camera is crippled by raw compression algorithms that will crush my pixels. They say the camera will shoot out sparks and smoke if a single drop of water falls upon it. They tell me it's overpriced and over-hyped. These voices sow tiny little seeds of fear in the back of my mind. Did I waste my money? Should I pull down my Craigslist ads and keep my old gear? I really don't want to water these silly seeds, but they are weeds and as we know, weeds are drought tolerant. Instead of worrying about all of the bullshit, I should just get out there with this new camera and make some great images. I should be grabbing at it like Claire grabs for the iPad.
But fear is a powerful thing. Fear that I might be wrong. I might be making a mistake. I might regret this.
If my beautiful daughter faced new things with such fear, it would fill me with sadness. I would gleefully encourage her to ignore her fears and dive in. I would move mountains to foster her sense of adventure and embolden her spirit of exploration. I would do these things knowing that her life will be fuller lived fearlessly. I would caution her to ignore the naysayers, to cry bullshit to the bullshitters, and to stay focused on forward progress.
We all could use more of that.