Vail Daily column: The soul of the selfie
August 20, 2015
A meeting in Aspen left me a little time afterward to run a trail in the Maroon Bells.
First time there, and boy was I impressed. All Ansel Adams, but in living, breathing color with a living, breathing moose in the trees as I puttered past. More dangerous than a bear, some rangers say. Big anyway.
More risky was the wet rock, ankle-breaking stuff, in a light rain. Which meant I was pretty much alone back there, reveling as I ran.
I took pictures with my cell phone, too. Lots of them. A decade ago I would have brought a little camera. Maybe a Flip. Remember those? I know, so 2006. Now gone with slides and camcorders and such.
The urge to share had struck. So I chronicled, I documented, I briefly thought of something clever to say on Facebook when I'd get a chance to post. We must have discussed social media at the meeting.
I mean, not to be creepy or anything, but I lurk 10 times, 100 times, more than I post. The fascination for me is seeing what my family is up to, particularly the younger members, along with high school and college buds, old colleagues, folks in our community and so on.
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You know, we once saved a dog and then found her family through Facebook. How cool is that? Well, my wife and daughter did, anyway. I peeped at the happy reunion posts. Touched my heart, it did.
But now I was running. Well, more like shuffling on wet rocks in the rain. And chronicling. Not for the paper, mind you. Not doing journalism or anything like that, the normal obsession. This was just for Facebook friends who might have some passing interest in the beauty and maybe even the moose.
So, image here and image there. Wait, I should show myself in some of these scenes. Humans like to look at humans. We just do. So I snapped some of those, too, some with funny faces.
Ah, my daughter said. You took a selfie (?). Said pretty much like that. A declaration and question at the same time. As in, you? Seriously?
First I'd heard of the term, amazingly enough. I'd done a "selfie." Did that make me … savvy?
She told her brother, in apparent amazement: "Dad took a selfie!"
But what's the big deal? Painters were doing these before photography came along. Taking pictures of ourselves has been pretty much constant since the Civil War era. Homo sapiens have always been fascinated with what they see in the mirror and that fated pool Narcissus couldn't leave. We even have a personality defect and social ill named for this supposed flaw. But why?
Some will yap on about the "selfie culture" and the problem with Millennials. Nonsense. We've been afflicted as a species forever. The advent of a camera on our phones and god forbid, a "selfie stick," changes nothing.
The 20-something who can't help but post her every meal out and profundities complete with, yes, a selfie, has no more than easy means over those of us who came before her. You bet we're vain, we yearn to share, we're convinced we're each special, inside this shell, thinking these thoughts, looking out on this world.
That's no sudden Millennial thing. That's the human condition going back to our roots.
A selfie is only the latest reflection.
I will tell you, though, I felt vaguely out of generational focus with my daughter's amazement, like when I'm tempted to leave my shirt untucked at work.
I haven't taken a selfie since my rainy run past the moose in the Maroon Bells a couple of falls ago. I don't know what stops me.
Maybe it's a vision of a boomer trying too hard to be, um, hip (wrong word, right?). Maybe vanity has begun to quail before the fact of age. The picture doesn't match the person caught in amber inside.
Maybe this is an early realization we're more than that image, that view in the mirror, that selfie expressing oneself and seeking oneself.
Ah, the soul.
I dare you. Try to take a picture of that.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.
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