Kick the habit

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories


Jerking the trigger, focusing with one eye closed and complacency with exposure are just some of the bad habits that I struggle with as a professional photographer. Where do these repetitive behaviors come from? Memory? Memories are collections of energy in neurons distributed throughout the brain connected together by things called engrams. And every night, those arrangements of engrams and neurons need to be integrated into the rest of the brain structure. An unreliable process, cars turn from blue to red, birthdays migrate or disappear entirely and yet her eyes stay still on you, side-lit, shaped just so, turning slowly away, beautiful. So, maybe the bad habit isn’t a memory repeated but rather a forgetting, not to do something. The main character from Memento, Leonard, lost his ability to make new memories. So every morning, he woke up and remembered the trauma of his wife’s murder and the circumstances preceding his brain injury. And because it was always fresh in his mind, he forgot to get over the horror, to integrate it into his past. He forgot to grieve.

My bad habits certainly don’t take on that weight. But they worry me at times nonetheless. Standing upon the precipice of my life, I see the repetitious behavior. I feel that I’ve reduced the tendency toward self-destruction, and I think I can recognize the formation of bad patterns ahead of time now, all lessons hard won. But impossible relationships and loss of time are both ever present. I’m lucky to have fallen in love more than once. But the dream that many men have of dieing and having all the women of his life come to his funeral and weep openly and sing songs about him doesn’t seem very likely at this point. For better or worse, those others have left my shores with their own lessons learned and won, perhaps habits of their own formed.

Knowledge descends to us like a mist through the evergreens, and every so often we glisten with inspiration. But usually our knowledge is gained through a hike in that same wet muddy forest, the struggle being the anchor of remembrance. There’s a trick in there somewhere of how to increase our eureka moments and reduce the slogging. Maybe it came to me one lonely star-lit evening in the dark Momence night. But if it did, I neglected to remember the thing.

What do you think?