Making a Difference

When it comes to making a difference we often think about famous people who are in the news, or individuals who hold positions of power in society. Sometimes making a difference can be negative if the differences that are created are steeped in selfishness, hate, racism, misogyny, or xenophobia. When we truly are making a difference it results in increasing understanding, empathy and love.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/1.2, 1/1250, ISO-160

Making a Difference Begins Internally

Before we can begin making a difference we need to critically examine ourselves. Our motivations. Our fears. Our goals. Our actions. Our emotions. Coming to grips with the reality that is us can be an unnerving, and a sometimes painful experience.

It is easy to live one’s life in a bubble of self-unawareness. Bursting that bubble takes courage as we don’t really know what we’ll find. Sometimes there is a void which aches. More often than not material possessions are poured into the void. They simply fall into an abyss of self-loathing. So more is poured in… also with no effect. The personal hollowness continues unabated. It may be temporarily masked by materialism… but the ache continues.

We obscure self-awareness with the false belief that we are what we have and own. Our career. Our titles. Our incomes and investments. Our homes, cars and other possessions. Our partners. Our children.  Like multiple layers of bandages these things patch over the raw wound of self-unawareness… but do not heal it.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 18 mm, efov 48.6 mm, f/5,6m 1/50, ISO-400

Accepting the Unknown

The human experiences of billions that have gone before us have served to confirm that a possible future beyond this realm remains unknown and unproven. Theories and dogma abound.

Some people have had out-of-body experiences which have led them to consider the potential that consciousness may continue beyond our physical state. The nature and timing of that potential also remains unknown and unproven.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 41mm, efov 111mm, f/5, 1/20, ISO-3200, extension tubes

Seeking redemption for the transgressions we’ve committed against others is a convenient panacea. Our past actions are not washed away or otherwise cleansed.

We often use beliefs and dogma as justifications for our ill treatment of others. For stripping away their human rights. For treating them as if they are somehow subservient to us. We make self-absorbed value judgements that our beliefs and perspectives are superior to those held by others.

For countless generations humankind has feared that nothing exists for us after physical death. Fear creates anger and hurt. Making a difference involves accepting that the future beyond this existence is unknown… and likely always will be. All we have is today and what we choose to do with it. Accepting the unknown frees us to live today’s moments fully and fruitfully.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.2, 1/125, ISO-5000, subject distance 630 mm

Acts of Kindness

Making a difference can be found by committing random acts of kindness. A helping hand. A heartfelt message of encouragement or condolence. A donation of time or resource. A smile. A nod. Small acts of kindness at the right moment can help alleviate pain, fear or uncertainty.

Acts of kindness are transformed into actions of self-interest, selfishness, self-importance, or self-aggrandizement when we attach expectations of thanks or recognition to them.

Belvedere House Gardens & Park Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 22 mm, efov 59.4 mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO-800

Sharing Our Best Selves

Each of us has talents and abilities to share. When we do so with the intent to improve the life of another without any expectation of personal reward, we are making a difference… no matter how small.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 46.1mm, efov 124.5mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

Honesty Without Being Hurtful

Making a difference often involves sharing honest observations without being hurtful. Helping others to grow their self-awareness opens doors to unleash their potential.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm @ 264 mm, efov 713 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-800

Learning to observe the tiger, rather than ride it.

When we allow our emotions to control our lives unchecked… we are choosing to ride the tiger. It can be a perilous journey. Our ability to think logically is inversely proportional to our level of emotional arousal. Learning to fully concentrate on feeling the physical sensations of our emotions breaks our thought patterns. When those thought patterns are broken, the emotions they create inside us melt away. We can then observe the tiger, rather than ride it.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70mm, efov 189mm, f/4.5, 1/1600, ISO-450

Small Changes Count

Shifting our habitual behaviours contributes to making a difference. This is evident when we consider the impacts that our behaviours have on climate change. We can insulate our homes. Drive more fuel efficient vehicles. Take public transit. Walk or ride a bicycle. Resist the temptations of consumerism. Change our diet by reducing or eliminating animal proteins. Small changes like these can reduce our individual carbon footprints.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 54 mm, efov 145.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200

Appreciate the connectedness of humankind

None of us exist in a vacuum. We are all connected in a myriad of ways. Learning about other cultures and beliefs can increase our tolerance and acceptance of others. The true measure of societal success is examining how the most disadvantaged among us are treated.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/1.2, 1/3200, ISO-160

Holding Ourselves Accountable

As our heads touch our pillows each night we can reflect on how we used our precious gift of time that day.  Holding ourselves accountable confirms one of two truths. Either our day was shallow and meaningless… or we had some success making a difference. Either way the road continues. At least for a while.

Old Cabot Trail, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, efov 129.6mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-160

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. This is the 1,240 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Making a Difference”

  1. Thank you for writing about the deeper questions in life. For me, these are at the core of understanding why I want to pursue photography in the first place and what the value and meaning of my work might be for myself and others. Making a difference with this form of art is especially challenging. I still have no real orientation where my place might be in this or what I really want to convey with my work, so I am just happy that I don’t have to make a living with photography. As long as I don’t find answers to these questions, I keep asking them to myself and just try to become a better photographer in the mean time, so at least I can start to like some of my pictures at times.

    1. Finding answers to questions is like peeling an onion. Once we think an answer has arrived one layer of the onion is peeled… and reveals more of the onion and other questions arise.


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