|Second Home Cemetery, Milwaukee (Google Earth)|
Walking my kid to school the other day, I saw another youngster taking a photograph of her self (selfie) in front of a local running store. The store is called "JackRabbit," a name evocative of fleet--the warm, fuzzy and adorable kind. I love the logo.
In the 19th and early 20th century, when cameras were invented and modern photography came into being, some traditionally observant Jews avoided having their pictures taken because they feared the technology might capture their soul. In conveying an image, Hermes might steal them away to the underworld. My great-grandfather's mother's name was Liba Gutzeit-Siegalowitz and in a photograph taken in Minsk in 1911, she looks concerned.
The earth floor beneath her feet; her grandchildren at her side; left behind to perhaps share the fate of Kopyl's Jewish community's liquidation by the Nazis in 1942 (I don't yet know--the evidence is bare); or maybe she sees her own soul vanishing, like magic, materially moving from her own body to the lens, the film, the studio, the blackroom, the mailroom, the ship, the rail, and into the hands of her son, Chaim, in Milwaukee, who cannot save her.
The girl in front of the mercury-rabbit shoe store sends a picture of herself somewhere, maybe to someone else down the street or halfway around the world; and in an instant I look up in the sky and imagine an infinite number of messages and images dashing, hopping, colliding in space, the instantaneous delivery of digitized materiality making each of gods of our own fate.
So much power. So much faith in one little sim card.
And so with circuits humming heatedly all around me in that transparent commercial cube of happy entertainment, I floated above the burial ground of Milwaukee, looking down on the circuitry of my soul. I told myself stories that were happy and sad; triumphant and tragic. I took modest comfort in the reality that granite gravestone, as in a game of rock-paper-scissors, wears away silicon.
Grandpa died in 1973 and Grandma died in 1979 and they are buried next to one another, their flesh and bones in the earth beneath the trees; the shade, the leaves, the wind and sky above. In this picture they smile freely, in America. The camera captures only a playful image. Their stories, their essences, hovering in the Circuits of Time. Eternal.