Photoshop for the Soul

Sunrise at Mo'omomi, Molokai, Hawaii.
Sunrise at Mo'omomi, Molokai, Hawaii.

I’m sitting in front of my laptop computer as is often the case after a photo shoot trying to sort the keepers from the flops.  I’m so tired from rising up before the sun to bump down a red dirt road in order to be in the place of maximum potential this morning that its hard to keep my eyes from closing into a peaceful sleep.  Despite the excitement of wanting to see my images scroll by in the filmstrip at the bottom of the computer, my eyes grow heavy.  Then – an image catches my eye.  Its not dynamite, but it has potential.  It is a wide angle view of one of the wildest spots on the island of Molokai, the Mo’omomi nature preserve.  The shot tells the story of the untamed coast line, it has good light, interesting clouds, and a foreground.  All the right elements for a wide angle shot – but somehow the image falls flat.  There is no drama due to the digital photographers curse of RAW files, like day old beer, being a tad bit on the flat side.  No problem I think to myself as my fingers begin gliding down the controls available to ‘fix’ the image in Photoshop.  Moments later after a few clicks and slides the image finds its voice. I mark it with two stars as a keeper and triumphantly continue my edit.

Scrolling through the next batch of images, I think to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Photoshop for the soul?’  Wouldn’t it be nice if, just as we fix images on our computer hard drives, there was a way to ‘fix‘ the traumas in the hard drives of our brains.  Well – according to professor of psychology Jonathan Haidt – there may be a photoshop for the soul – and its called writing.  In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt sites research contending that people who write about difficult events in their lives, and as a result of the process of writing about this event gain increased insight, show a dramatic improvement in physical health over the next year. To paraphrase the book, he suggests that one writes continuously for fifteen minutes a day, for several days without editing or censoring ones self; and without worrying about grammar or sentence structure;…the crucial thing is to get ones thoughts and feelings out without imposing any order on therm – but in such a way that, after a few days, some order is likely to emerge on its own.  Before one concludes… one needs to be sure to answer the following two questions: Why did this happen? and What good might I derive from it?

In 2005, after being diagnosed with and then cured of pancreatic cancer, Apple computer’s Steve Jobs shared the following thoughts at a graduation ceremony:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward!  AND THAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  There is photoshop for our souls – and its called connecting the dots with words!

As these insights come to me, another image from the filmstrip catches my eye.  Like the last one, it only needs a few adjustments in photoshop to start to sing.  I pray my life only needs the small slide of the clarity tool to do the same.

2 thoughts on “Photoshop for the Soul”

  1. Well said (in pixels and words) and I give full support to the power of learning where we’ve been by writing it out, to help us see where we’re going. Clarity. Sharpness. Lack of distortion. Resolution. Wonderful photographic metaphors that translate to the pages of our lives. Good work, Jonathan.

Comments are closed.