A Green Old Man, Cowboy Boots & Teilhard de Chardin's ConeMonday, July 09, 2012
this Friday’s screening (big screen! great sound!) of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I have been giving much thought to the film’s transition from ape/animal to ape/man. There is that marvelous slow motion sequence where the apes throw up into the air their primitive weapons and…
I have written here a few times about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s explanation in helping us understand the “sudden” rise of human consciousness. He likens human consciousness (borrowing from the calculus of Newton and Leibniz) the idea of slicing segments (parallel to the base) in ever smaller ones. Ultimately that little circle will become a point in space. It is then that man thought. Eric Fromm and many liberals in the Catholic Church see no conflict (with the bible story) of the idea of apes suddenly arriving at thought. Those with religious views will see the hand of God in the breathing of that consciousness.
I like to use Teilhard de Chardin’s cone explanation for many other such logical conundrums. In my grade 10 religion class with my now mentor and friend, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. we used to attempt to make him forget about a pop quiz we was supposed to give us or simply waste time by asking questions such as this one. “Is stealing $1000 from a little old lady a mortal sin?” Brother Edwin’s answer was an invariable, “Yes.” Our next question was, “Is stealing a quarter from a little old lady a mortal sin?” The answer was usually (until he caught on), “Now it is a venial sin.”
For those who may not understand the difference, here it is. If you were to die (without either the benefits of absolution in either confession of the extreme unction) right after stealing those $1000 you would go straight to hell. In the case of the quarter St. Peter would make you park for a while in purgatory until you were cleansed with some old-fashioned suffering of which the bible does not elaborate.
For me purgatory would be listening to Erin Burnett on CNN for more than five minutes and hell would be Burnett for ever.
So my question now is when is a young man who likes to photograph undraped women become a dirty old man? This is a personal, immediate question for me that has a lot of relevance.
I teach nude portraiture at Focal Point with some regularity and I am asked what models I may want to have for the classes. Since I am an avowed heterosexual who likes to boast of objectivity I make sure we have both male and female models. When I have to make my choice of female models I do my best to stay away from any model who might be younger than 25. I feel more comfortable with models that are 30 or over. I don’t want to be accused of being a “viejo verde” Spanish for dirty old man.
Some 10 years ago I photographed a health writer in my studio who had never posed undraped before. She had obtained a Brazilian to prove a point (apparently, found out it is not all an esthetic reason the women and now men get the wax jobs). Her point is that God (Teilhard’s) had put hair where our skin is especially sensitive. Removing the sensitivity deadening hair gave women and men more pleasure.
Sometime during the shoot she looked at me in a way that disturbed me and she made the comment that ran something like this,” How would you know anything about this? You are old and sex is behind you.” I was shocked. She did not have to state that sex between consenting old people is a form of pornography.
So again that question that I keep making to myself, “Should I stop teaching these nude classes and stop all photographic activity involving the undraped female figure (regardless of her age)?
All the above is but an overture and an excuse to run here some sexy pictures that will make a writer friend of mine’s day. He is a gentleman, the kind that sends flowers as a thank you for almost any occasion. He dresses like a gentleman and adores cerebral women but disagrees with me that Eva Marie Saint is more beautiful than Grace Kelly.
These sexy pictures have an interesting story that involves Texas. It was in Texas where I made that most important transition of playing with toy soldiers one day (Teilhard’s cone be damned) and suddenly on the next day I was interested in girls.
By the time I was in grade 10 in that neo-Gothic (Gothic Revival is supposed to be the accurate nomenclature) building that was St. Edward’s High School I and my fellow boarding classmates were churning (I must state here to prevent a fulminating communication from Bob Mercer aka The Fiendish Editor, that churning is here used as an adjective not as a verb. Churning libidos, with churning as a verb would make us butter nuts) libidos that were exacerbated by the fact that the only woman on campus (during the day) was a fat cook in the kitchen. I must insist in being accurate here in adding that she was also black.
We had a friend, a teasing friend, called Bonnie.
Bonnie would call us on Friday evenings. Our libidos were especially raw as we anticipated our Saturday leave to downtown Austin. Most if not all women in the city knew about us so they would avoid us. Only the girls at St. Mary’s Academy, on the other side of town, understood our plight. They were kept busy and tired by the nuns who made them play lots of volleyball. Volleyball was originally the first Vatican approved method of birth control.
Bonnie somehow had found out the unlisted number of our public phone that was just outside the door to our dormitory. Whenever we made any calls we rarely used coins as we had one of those coat hanger wires. You would insert the wire through the coin return and with a few wrist flicks (we were very good with wrist flicks) dial tone was always the reward. Bonnie would call and talk to us for hours. My guess is that she single handedly invented phone sex. She just had not figured out that she could make money at it. She kept us going for hours and any attempts to meet up with her at a movie house so we could make out were always dashed. She never would turn up for the appointed date.
But a nerdish and awfully shy tenth grader did get to meet her. In fact that nerd was me.
During one of our conversations I told her I had just acquired a Pentacon-F single lens reflex camera and that I had become quite good at taking pictures. She consented to my taking her picture on the condition that I never tell any of my fellow classmates and to never show the pictures to anybody. I promised I would do as she said. I must confess that I have finally broken that promise but I suspect Bonnie would never mind in the least.
I didn’t expect a beautiful girl when I met up with her at a warehouse not far from the Harry Ransom Center by the University of Texas.
Bonnie, she must have been 16 to my 15. She was kind, not in the least at all like the image she conveyed on the telephone (we called her a prick teaser). She was almost shy and never did even hint that she would take off any of her clothes for me, not that I would have ever dared to ask. But I did manage to take a few pictures with Kodak Tri-X and the only lens I had at the time a 50mm F-2.8 Zeiss Tessar. Even now I see them as charming. I looked at them today and it seems to be that there is some Bardot in her.
I was never able to show her the pictures. Her phone calls suddenly stopped and we never heard from her again. There were other girls who began calling us. But by then the thrill (at least for me) was gone.
Last July when Rosemary, our two granddaughters and I drove to Texas I had a sudden memory flash. I swore that as soon as I returned to Vancouver I would look in all my files for those pictures of Bonnie.
What caused that sudden memory flash? I happened to see a beautiful woman wearing a dress and cowboy boots. I suddenly felt nostalgically at home, in Texas.