Thinking about expertise I was wondering whether a fundamental expertise exists, an expertise of life. Of course we have many experts who try to guide us through their books to “a better life”, “a healthier life” or a “more successful life”. They also tell us how to live easier, faster or even how to live forever but are they really experts and whom of them should we listen to?
And that is how, looking for materials in the internet, I bumped into an article entitled “How to live forever” published in 2009 on the official internet site of “The New York Times”. It shows an elderly lady sitting on a chair and doing exercise by raising the dumbbell above her head. We can see her serious face which may express a certain amount of effort. She has a very groomed look, her clothes are neat and of a good quality, their color and style are matching her age and status. By the way the pale pink of her top and trousers bring positive associations and make us thinking optimistically about this person. We can see a perm on her hair and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles on her nose. She is wearing a watch on her hand.
However the background does not say much about the place. It is only a clearly colored wall with a small painting on it hanging above lady’s head. It might be a room in a nursing home due to its impersonal character. If it was a lady’s real home we could see a lot of details like personal objects, souvenirs and an individual equipment. If we admit that the scene is taking place in a nursing home we can imagine that outside of the picture there are others residents and some nurses bustling around the daily affairs. Some of them may watching the lady, some of them may not even notice her presence.
Although it shows a person in motion it seems to be very static at the same time. It is difficult to say why. Maybe it is because of a lots of empty space we can see here, making the room an ascetic place. Or maybe because we associate the silver hair with an peaceful and moving slowly person, or it might be because of the picture hanging above her head. But they all are only creating the appearance of immobility.
In reality there is a lot of motion in this picture. A slow but instant motion of everyday struggle. The first sign of it are the hands of the watch on lady’s forearm. We are conscious that they are moving constantly, they remind us about the passing time. Then, the second sign is the lady’s right arm that she is keeping raised above her head. We know that is only for a moment that the rhythm of physical exercise will command her to get it down and then to raise it again and get it down again and again. Finally the third sign of motion is the water flowing down the river on the picture above her head.
I must admit it is very interesting point that we have here an picture within a picture; a new perspective is opening here. We feel it is endless, because this new picture represents a river which is flowing wider and wider beyond the picture to the unknown space. It is beautiful parallel to the endless life which is mentioned in the title.
Eventually, we may ask ourselves whether looking at the photograph we find the answer to the question in title “How to live forever”? We can also ask further questions: Is the lady a mistress of life? Does she know how to live at all? For the answer I have to confess that the photograph touch me very deeply from the first sight and told me more than a hundred of handbooks written by authors pretending to know the answer the question “how to live?”.
In conclusion, according to my opinion this photograph says that we have to care about ourselves, to keep in a good form and neat look. Moreover we do not have to make a big deal every day, it is quite enough to make an effort as big as we can bear. But the point is we cannot stop doing it, as we do not have an endless time here. Therefore this lady really knows how to live and I would change the photograph’s title into a “Mistress of life”