This I Believe
I believe that time can stand still while we ponder and wait for our lives to bring about change. On June 6th 1967 at 1:45 PM I was taking the yearend exam of my third grade at St Mary Catholic School for Boys in Port-Said Egypt, the deafening air raid sirens went off next to my classroom window, we were ushered into the underground bomb shelter.
The shelter had not been used since 1956, and felt and smelled like a dungeon. My father picked my older brother and I up and rushed us home. We were told that Israel had attacked Egypt and that Egyptian armed forces were about to crush the Israelis. For the next 72 hours we were herded from one bomb shelter to the next, the news on the radio kept a tally of the Israeli losses. 300 planes downed, they declared! 345 planes downed, they shamefully announced a half an hour later, and so on and on until the numbers were in the thousands. In fact not one single plane was hit; the Israeli air force had annihilated all the Egyptian air defense systems, and its entire fighter planes while on their secret military air strips. They’ve wiped out radars, and anything that resembles organized armed forces. In short the Egyptian Armed forces were decimated, in six days. The Sinai Peninsula was lost, more than 53000 casualties, and hundreds of thousands injured. I Discovered for myself a moment of revelation, I recognized defeat for the first time, or the absence of normalcy, or even the true meaning of the word GOD- because he was on all sides. Fast forward to the first time I’ve taken a picture that captured a moment that wasn’t there. As a professional photographer, I’m in the business of capturing the meaning of the moment, rather than the actual moment. I dissect time into thousandths of a second, and only one of those one-thousandth of one particular second is then revealed. This in turn adds a meaning to the moment, an intrinsic meaning -if you will. What Henri-Cartier Bresson coined as the decisive moment. I believe that the apex of motion as in Bresson’s moments can transcend motion and venture into philosophy. This brings us to the meaning of a particular snap shot. We -the people of the world- tend to make judgments and add meaning to historic moments based solely on our snap shot perception of the moment, as in the Kennedy assassination, or the challenger space shuttle disaster, or the attacks on September 11, 2001 (as its popularly known as Nine Eleven) I’ve finally came to understand not to judge moments in history based on their snap-shot or decisive moment appearances. To some; the out of context meaning of the Kennedy assassination means that Camelot was gone, or the end of rich New England boys rule. But, in a historical sense it may mean the beginning of a war campaign that cost more than 50,000 American lives and close to a million Vietnamese lives. That’s why they call that war the American war in Vietnam. Based on these assumptions, I’ve learned to admire and respect people of faiths and religions. Accept all people of all income, all races, and all convictions. There is no one absolute meaning to HELL, or for that matter to HEAVEN. The entire human civilization could have turned out completely different and divine religions would have taken a different course had our early perception of the MOON for example been altered to recognize that it was a globe in shape and not a disc. Our early ancestors would have assumed that the Sun was also a sphere and both the Sun and the Moon are not Gods. Our religious evolution could have led us somewhere completely different, where no one dies based on their religious conviction, and no one fights based on which part of their divine rock falls under which jurisdiction, or under what dome. Our history clearly teaches us not to be judgmental, but with time running out we must embrace its components, for each is a testimony to our lack of understanding, if it could only stand still.
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