My friend James Pruitt fingered this news photo, source unknown to me, and this is my subsequent crop of the image – cropping to the action that matters to me.
You see the Rockwell right away, of course, and the genius of Rockwell was that he was able to capture this instant in oils, not instantaneous picture-perfect pixels.
But what matters to me is the undeniable verisimilitude of photography: Nothing but the framing and the instant of exposure was selected by the artist (with me peeing on the tree with my crop). The rest is pure humanity captured in a slice of time.
This is the literal moment of truth – the instant when everyone is so passionately involved in what is happening right now that no one can contrive to lie. Just that much is worthy of study: This is what people look like when they are not hiding.
But there are three-dozen or so identifiable souls in that photo – all but two, colorably, men – and each one of those individuals is… an individual.
Each person’s location with respect to the ball is different, so their reactions are necessarily different. But each person’s place in the orbit of life is different, too, as is each one’s evaluation of risks and rewards in that moment. Each one of these folks was and will be having a different day, week, year, life from all the others – as witnessed by the teen boy straight up from the middle who cannot punish his (absent?) father enough.
Here’s a Netflix challenge: Each one of those people leaves the ballpark after that one second of shared communion. What happens next? If there are three-dozen people there are thirty-six stories, and each one is different from all the others.
Each one of those people is unique and separate and, in every way that matters, nothing like any of the others. Not even the fathers and sons – not even the ones who still like each other.
To the extent that they share common expectations, they can share common spaces and get along with each other – as here. The more rigid the expectations, the less they can share – but the greater the depth of the sharing. We can all get a beer at the ballpark, and y’all can even go ahead of us in line – but Christmas Dinner is for family, capisce?
Why is Madelyn Nguyen such an amazing child? Her parents came to their marriage with virtually-identical expectations, so she is one of the few children permitted to grow into a world with no conflicts, no resentments, no mutiny. That’s what makes a Testudo Family work – not any specific detail of doctrine, but simply the shared pursuit of Splendor by the same one map.
That’s rare – one may hope less so going forward. Meanwhile, the folks in that photo are illuminating reality for you, if you care to see it:
Almost no one agrees with anyone about anything. Unless you are as alike as the Nguyens are alike – as much alike as if you had been raised in the same home – I can have you and your BFF at each other’s throats in six questions, tops. Everything you share is sweet and rare and fine. Everything you don’t share is immense – and almost-certainly unexplored.
You are unique, like it or don’t.
Who agrees with you? Nobody.
Each leaf drinks from its own sun. Each spirit speaks with its own tongue.
There is no alternative to this – but who could ever want one? What could be more beautiful – here or anywhere – than the moment of undoubted truth?
Well done, reality: You never fail to edify.