Had a nice, casual 4th of July. The less said about the 3rd of July’s tequila the better, but the day was very mellow. After a casual dinner Suze and I sauntered casually down to the Charles River for the fireworks. Boston sure does love its fireworks. Standing among half a million people on a breezy cool July evening, watching colorful explosions in a clear sky, what’s not to like?
I had paused for half a moment wondering whether to bring a camera, wishing I could know for certain the lugging of it would be worthwhile. Every once in a while I get these moods where I am antsy about taking pictures; I don’t want to take them unless they will be perfect or stunning. It isn’t enough to capture a moment but to find the perfect moment, or a series of them, and wring from them a truth of some kind that is, pretentious as it sounds, art. I looked at my various cameras and weighed their benefits and disadvantages for the situation and decided I’d rather be care-free.
Later, while watching the fireworks, Suze pulled out her iPhone and decided to take some pictures. I encouraged her, a little jealously. But then she decided she’d rather just watch the fireworks and I thought that was a good idea as well.
There were many out to capture the fireworks, some with tiny digital cameras, some with semi-professional rigs on tripods. But watching the fine mulit-layered chrysanthemums and exploding poms of color in the sky I realized a certain foolishness in trying to capture a fireworks display. There isn’t anything static about a fireworks display because it is forever in motion. There is a lot that can be seen by freezing action with a camera, things that would go unseen otherwise: an athlete’s expression at a moment of triumph, or the stamen-like waves emanating from a drop of water hitting the surface. There is something in these otherwise unseen moments that fascinates in he way they capture time.
But fireworks are a light show whose beauty exists in its motion. They explode and evolve and then fade into the same blackness from which they came. We can know of an talk about the chemistry involved, and the craft of construction, the science of coordination when it comes to a fireworks display, but in the end what we get is something brief, fleeting, ephemeral.
I thought about theatre, and how an audience views a performance and walks away the memory of it. The words are there, somewhere, on paper, and perhaps it has been films for posterity, but that isn’t what the play was about. It was about bringing together people to witness a shared moment, and for them to carry that moment with them internally. Drama comes from storytelling, and storytelling is that verbal equivalent of a fireworks display, placing a series of images before the mind and asking the reader to witness these moments and carry them forward. All writing, all art, is it nothing more than an attempt to make another feel this same sense of awe we get while watching the night sky bloom with fire?
I was right not to bring the camera. I would never have seen as much if I were too busy trying to capture the fireworks.