Collateral Beauty

An old companion has come to stay with me these past few weeks. Depression. She is not welcome, but present for many of us during parts of our lives. Often the holidays seem her invitation to return and even stay.

When I was in my forties, I rediscovered a love of photography which lifted me out and away from what had been a lifetime of depression. The light I found through my lens was and still can be miraculous. Offering beauty and new perspectives. However, this past three years, I’ve had repeated challenges with the sight in my right eye. Most recently, two new surgeries have left me with impaired sight in the eye. We are optimistic it is temporary and I will have clear vision again, just a matter of a few more weeks. In the meantime, I am seeing everything darker and blurred as if looking through a wall of water. And, as might be expected, it hurts.

Water Wall

We recently saw a movie, “Collateral Beauty,” ( with Will Smith. I cried, felt amazed and walked away with a real sense of wonder. The title message, to “notice the collateral beauty” reminds me of how the first images created with my camera helped to lift me up and away from all the old feelings of depression. There were other ideas worth consideration within the movie, about time and death and love. I recommend it as a worthwhile experience for anyone.

The woman in the film who describes her moments of collateral beauty said some great scripted words (Allan Loeb, screenwriter, ), which I cannot remember exactly. Perhaps it is because words cannot completely describe those moments, not for her, nor for me. Imagine something like a moment of pure perfection, a sense of beauty beyond the visual or the auditory. Imagine feeling connected to all that exists and know you are a part of all, yet only a small part. It is these moments that can give great meaning to our lives. Only sometimes they are so fleeting as to leave you wondering if it was real. I suggest it is the most real part of this life, the part which makes life worth living.

I am convinced it is our personal perspective, the way we look at life born of our personal experience which determines our attitudes and feelings. I do not have to be stuck in this perspective, I can choose to see differently. Not an easy task, I find it very challenging. Perhaps the eye problem is an opportunity for me to learn to see differently. May I find ways to accept this new way of seeing and be blessed with new insight into myself and my part of the world.

Today, I resolve to keep active, to make the effort to pay attention, to put myself into situations where I might notice and experience a moment of collateral beauty. I expect to send my old companion, depression, away soon, allowing only ever shorter visits. May you find your way to repeated experiences of collateral beauty too.

Janne Aubrey

writer, poet, photographer