[YHWH] and the Birds of Appetite

The title of this series comes from a Thomas Merton essay, where he is introducing Zen to a western audience. He uses the metaphor “birds of appetite” to allude to the western capitalist mindset that people have to leave behind in order to begin to understand Zen and spirituality that has any depth. A “bird of appetite” is a bird of prey who lives in a scarcity mindset; always with the looming threat of starvation, it becomes obsessed with finding the next thing to kill. Much like the widely accepted western capitalist mindset that teaches us to always be hungry for more and strive to achieve at at any cost; never being satisfied with our current state. Merton explains that Zen cannot be understood with this mindset. There is nothing to be gained or achieved in the practice of Zen, it is simply a state of being. I strive to photograph with this perspective.

This project takes a close look at the victims of this societal “appetite”. Most of the people in this project described feeling isolated from the world, struggling with depression and a sense of loneliness. It is both fictional, autobiographical, and has surrealist undertones in that it tells a loose story about collaborating with the immediate world around us, and letting it reveal its magic. It explores the synchronicities in the everyday and how they are signs that guide us though life.

All of the photographs in this series are moments that I came upon by pure chance. As I go out and engage with the world, potential photographs seem to present themselves to me. Each of these moments serves as a reminder that the more I disengage from my mind and surrender control, the richer my life becomes.

The first part of the title “[YHWH],” refers to the original name for “god” or “the divine” in ancient Hebrew. It is the only set of consonants that, when pronounced correctly, don’t allow you to use your tongue or close your lips. Thus, the rabbis of the time were attempting to replicate breath in a single word. This concept serves as a reminder that every breath is an invitation to a different way of experiencing life. By speaking the name of the divine while simply breathing involuntarily, we are actualizing a metaphysical reality into material reality. Thus giving the material world more depth.