I’ve been thinking a lot about filters for the past few weeks. When I was a teenager, I thought I wanted to be a photographer. Somehow I got a pretty good 35mm camera. (Remember those? The ones you loaded the film in and when it hit the end of the 36 exposures, the film would rewind with a whirring noise?) I experimented a lot with this camera, putting different filters over the lens to get different effects in the final prints. One would make everything look kind of rosy, another would create sparkles wherever there was light, and there were others, but I can’t remember them because those two were my favorites.
I think we all see the world through filters of our own choosing. These filters are created by outside sources. The news comes to mind. Depending on which news you watch on television or which newspaper you read or where you go on the internet, you may see the world in a different light. Is the Confederate flag an emblem of racism or Southern pride? Is gay marriage the best thing to happen to our world since the end of World War II? Or the beginning of the apocalypse? Are pro-lifers evil or is it the mother who gets the abortion?
I can’t help but come back to the filters I used to put on my old Nikon. I chose to see the world as sparkly and rose-colored, and I probably still do in many ways. I don’t watch news programs very often or read the Wall Street Journal. I know what ISIS is, but when I hear the word, I still think of the Egyptian Goddess Isis (who was a superhero with her own show in the 70s) and not the terrorist group, which, if I think too much about their evil, will cause me to cower in a corner for the better part of the day.
Poets and writers and news media color everyone’s impression of the world and have for centuries. The best example I can think of for poetry filters are Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”, a rose-tinted painting of love in the countryside, and Sir Walter Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”, a stark response based in reality that rips the romance right off Marlowe’s filter.
No matter who you are and what happens to you in your life, you see the world through your own chosen filter. But you can choose to try on a different one every now and then. Turn on FOX News from time to time. Switch to CNN for half an hour. Turn the television off and pick up a book of poetry. See the world from the other side, or at least try to.