Today I went to the New Museum of Contemporary Art with my friend, Allan. There's a South African photography exhibit by David Goldblatt on display there that I wanted to see. On the third floor, the photographs are dire. "Is all of South Africa a desert, Christa?" Allan asked me. In the photos the land has been reduced to rubble, laid barren by years of struggle and negligence. "Where is the hope?" Allan asked.
We then made our way up to the fourth floor where there were a series of before and after photographs. Barren land had regrown some. South Africa seemed a little more green, not teeming with life, though certainly much improved. I felt a small flicker of hope.
I went to South Africa about 2 years ago and though I had a series of unfortunate incidents, I also had a set of really incredible circumstances that endeared me to that country and its people. I'm sure I'll return some day soon. While there seems to be no hope in the structures of shanty towns that can be found throughout the country, there is a great deal of strength and ambition in the eyes of South Africans. They seem to always be looking up and over, at something brighter and better in the distance.
The handful of before and after photographs got me to thinking about how hope and life can regenerate without any outside influence. The first law of thermodynamics involves the conservation of energy and it states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. In Einstein's Theory of Relativity, he reveals to us that while the first law of thermodynamics holds true, energy can transform into mass, and vice versa. As I viewed the photos of South Africa, particularly the before and after photos, I thought about Einstein's theory and how it applies to broader circumstances outside of science.
It seems to me that the re-growth of life, mass, could be due to the fact that energy, hope, cannot be created nor destroyed. It just is, then, now, and always. While it may change forms and go into hiding from time to time, we can be sure that it is always there, available to us if only we have the insight to recognize it.