Friday, January 31, 2014

Mount Kilimanjaro, from above.

Mount Kilimanjaro, viewed from the air:


The highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro juts up from the continent, a somehow hopeful anomaly, a beacon of strangeness and beauty, unreasonable, inspiring, alone yet friendly, resolute, appreciable, unassuming but definite, relatable. I am not sure if I love this mountain but I love that it is there and that I've gotten to be close to it, more than once. I took this photo in 2008, from a plane that was leaving Tanzania. I found the photo earlier this week, I was taken aback, happy and sad, I hadn't even remembered I had it. These gifts, these potentially important experiences, inhibited because insufficiently examined, inadequately reflected upon. How wonderful that technology regifts these experiences to me - first in taking me aloft, allowing humans to fly, I am recreated, each time, as a plane lifts from the ground taking me with it, it doesn't seem to wear off, this slight incredulousness. Lately I've noticed less of a lift in my heart and body as the wheels leave the tarmac, than what I used to experience in hundreds of flights over the course of my life, but mostly it is there, or accessible if I devote a little more attention again, that intake of breath, that unarguable feeling of happiness at this action that humans have accomplished. And then being able to photograph that sight, that those technological abilities too are so widespread, that I could stand in a plane and take multiple photos of this view below me. And that now, I can sit here in London, and look again at this photograph, reproduced digitally on this computer, another phenomenal technology, so accessible to me. Hundreds of thousands of photos, available, stored, viewable so easily. All these technologies combining to give to me again something forgotten, something lost, something unknown. I remember that I want to be more grateful to these powers of technology, and want to use them more for my own good, these incredible inventions. It does not take me back to taking the photograph, or to the experience of seeing the mountain bearing through the clouds below. I think those experiences are hidden from me, perhaps through the haze of trauma that happened subsequently, lately I've wondered whether trauma has an obscuring or erasing effect on memory, certainly I think one's current state obscures access to the contents of one's mind and to aspects of current experience, but that is a different story for another day. I am not sure why I do not remember taking this photo. I am simply happy to experience it now, as an object of beauty and stimulus to reflection, almost six years later. Happy to remember being in Tanzania. To remember the significance of this mountain, for the people who live on its slopes, I hesitate to say in its shadows because it seemed to me that they lived more in its light. I was lucky to get to live a short while with some of them in 2002, and to return subsequently. In 2002 I stayed a couple of months in Moshi, in Kilimanjaro region in northern Tanzania. I would wake every morning to see this mountain, the snow-covered peaks in the distance, coming into view over what I think was called Uhuru Park, when I cycled into Moshi town. Amazing to see it each day. And amazing this time, in 2008, to get to see it from the air like this, I took more photos. I don't remember precisely looking down on it, as I've said, though I suspect now with more attention that experience could be regiven to me also, to recall seeing it from above. I seem to recall that other people on the large plane mainly didn't seem too excited, some were, and more didn't seem to appreciate this rare sight we were privileged to be given. Most of the people who live most of their lives seeing Mount Kilimanjaro every day, have never gotten to see it from the air, never gotten to travel in an aeroplane, and have no access to the immmense and materially more significant privileges that that ability also implies. I do appreciate the privilege, or try to, and the many many more I've been given. I want to make use of that privilege, and lately I have been frustrated by my inability to make much use of it at all. A frustration that in itself can come to seem self-indulgent, but is nonetheless real, for me, at this time. I want to be able to experience the realities, the joys, the pains, of life, and I want to make use of my knowledge, my experiences, my time, to do something that seems worthwhile, to me. And lately for many reasons I have not felt as if I've either much been experiencing my life fully, nor able to make much use of it towards a worthwhile goal. These things I realise must be related, and my struggles and failures in one related to my inabilities in the other, and vice versa. To make my life full of meaning and to make it meaningful. This mountain, this photograph, this memory and all it has taken to bring them together for me now remind me of what I want to do, and want to feel, and how I want to live, and for what. For all those I am grateful. Asante.


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