TIAA #9: “My Peace in the Pandemonium”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

"My Peace in the Pandemonium" / Seattle, Washington, USA / April 25, 2014
“My Peace in the Pandemonium” / Seattle, Washington, USA / April 25, 2014

What can I say about the photograph above?

Alas, it has been five weeks since I last featured an urban landscape or cityscape for the TIAA challenge. Life and current events have both influenced and dictated the images I have shared thus far. I may not appreciate this collection now, but I’m certain I will be grateful a year from now and in subsequent years. I like to recall where my mindset was situated when I review my actions both introspectively and retrospectively.

This week’s photo was triggered from a brief conversation that I had with one of my friends in Europe via Twitter yesterday morning. The exchange was as follows:

When I was younger, I think I was very much an idealist. I was an advocate of how I believed things should be instead of how they actually were. Since my early 20s, my father has repeatedly reminded me of how much disappointment I inflict upon myself when I insist upon relying on my expectations of life and people instead of the reality of life and people. Although he is not wrong in his wisdom, I think it has transformed my outlook of optimistic idealism into one of impenetrable realism today, which has an equivalent amount of advantages as well as disadvantages.

My friend gave me some good advice in our conversation above. He said, “Stay positive buddy!”

For whatever reason, those words triggered an internal response within me. For a very abbreviated instant, I wondered: Am I capable of staying positive? This thought was succeeded by my written response to him in our conversation.

Admittedly, I am a chronic worrywart (or worryguts) about matters colossal and not-so-colossal, especially about things that I did not initiate, cause, or cannot control.

In any case, I mentally associated the word “positive” with “peace”. Ideally, my vision of positivity is a Planet Earth that is at peace. In reality, I don’t know how to achieve this. One needs thousands, if not millions, of people to share such a creed in order to move a step in that direction.

As the two words started to swirl in my mind, I recalled “A Separate Peace“, the title of a thought-provoking novel by John Knowles that often ignites my introspection whenever I read it. The story focuses on two friends attending a private preparatory school in New Hampshire during the middle of World War II while a mutual admiration and concealed jealousy between them eventually boils out of control. The way the author describes the lovely landscape of New Hampshire and other parts of New England while these students are growing up in what seems like a sheltered existence (apart from national events and the war on the other side of the Atlantic) frequently makes me think of the reasons behind the book’s title.

A few moments later, my mind thinks of the opposite of peace, which many might immediately identify as “war”. However, the word that often comes to my mind is pandemonium. For some, pandemonium can be seen as both positive and negative. It depends on what the end goal is.

War is pandemonium at its worst and most fatal extreme.

Pandemonium is also a necessary prerequisite for societal change and, perhaps, peace itself. A public protest against injustice is a form of pandemonium.

(Of course, these semantics could vary if you’re an idealist or a realist, right?)

That brings us to this week’s photo and its corresponding title, “My Peace in the Pandemonium.”

The title is apropos because night-time photography of urban landscapes, such as the featured image, is often what sustains my equilibrium. I think some people call this their “happy space” or “happy place”.

(Note about the photo: Technically, you’re viewing three different cities in this photo. From foreground to background: Bellevue, Mercer Island, and Seattle).

I think I have two happy spaces:

1) Photographing cities between sunset and nightfall while listening to tunes on my iPod; and

2) Hovering above cities in a doorless helicopter several hundreds of feet in the air, the wind blowing around my body while capturing the magnificent city below on camera. (Yes, I am completely at peace in this state, even when there’s turbulence).

These are the two times I am at peace amidst all the pandemonium surrounding us in this world each day. This pandemonium only seems to intensify, so it’s paramount to have a personal moment to decompress and catch one’s breath.

I hope all of you have moments when you can be at peace, even if it’s for a short period of time.

West Montlake Park, Seattle / August 2020

TEN articles down for the TIAA challenge. 42 remain!

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