In the 1995 film Smoke, Auggie Wren manages a cigar store on the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn. Every morning at exactly eight o’clock, no matter what the weather, he takes a picture of the store from across the street. He has four thousand consecutive daily photographs of his corner all labeled by date and mounted in albums. He calls this project his “life’s work.”
One day Auggie shows the photos to Paul, a blocked writer who is mourning the death of his wife, a victim of random street violence. Paul doesn’t know what to say about the photos; he admits he has never seen anything like them. Flipping page after page of the albums, he observes with some amazement, “They’re all the same.” Auggie watches him, then replies: “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down, my friend.”
The pictures are all of the same spot, Auggie points out, “but each one is different from every other one.” The differences are in the details: in the way people’s clothes change according to season and weather, in the way the light hits the street. Some days the corner is almost empty; other times it is filled with people, bikes, cars, and trucks. “Its just one little part of the world but things take place there too just like everywhere else,” Auggie explains. And sure enough, when Paul looks carefully at the by now remarkably unique photographs, he notices a detail in one of them that makes all the difference in the world to him.
Source | Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, page 27
PONDER AND CONSIDER
A Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu puts it, “One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds awake each morning, to realize how inexhaustingly rich and different is sameness.”
Auggie reads the world – in his case, one corner in Brooklyn – for meaning. By its very nature, his project is rooted in the everyday. He knows how closely we may need to look to see the significance of seemingly ordinary and insignificant events. He understands that some of the most rewarding spiritual journeys are those we take on our own block.