The major foundation of all civilizations, cultures and religions is the concept of community. A family, a town, a nation, a world, united in the search for a utopian society, has been the dreams of philosophers since the dawning of civilization. A united based people can create a sense of bliss, compassion, and love; concepts that one could argue are the fundamentals of divinity. Our modern society, however, has forgotten the benefits of unity and has moved forward as a capitalistic society focusing purely on the individual. The desire for a utopian society is now clouded with the importance stressed on the individual and the constant struggle to get “ahead”. The idea of community makes individuals work together towards a common goal, while capitalism forces man to fight against each other for the identical selfish goal. Ansel Adams captures this struggle between the individualism and communism in his 1944 image of Mount Williamson.
Mount Williamson lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s, and Ansel Adams’ simple photograph vividly grasps modern society’s views of destroying community. The picture depicts a wide valley covered in giant boulders as far as the eye can see. Each boulder is unique with its own size, shape, and color; however they all share a common characteristic of being just that: a boulder. These boulders can be seen as a metaphor for mankind. We all are unique and connected through the common thread of humanity. Our individual focuses, however, blind us from acknowledging the struggles of the rest of the world. The boulders lay in front of the gargantuan mountain, Mount Williamson, which contain an aura of divinity.
Through the teachings of the Old Testament, we have been led to believe that we are created in the image of God; and to achieve love everlasting and rise above the inevitable death, we must present ourselves in front of her glory. Adams’ photograph vividly portrays this understanding of the Old Testament. The mountains are magnificent with heavenly clouds and rays of light. It is inferable that the mountains are indeed representative of a God and all of her splendor. The boulders, however, look bleak and powerless, buried in the torment of the earthly sins and pleasures. Just as the boulders seem to present themselves for judgment to Mount Williamson, the human race must at the moment of death be prepared for our own judgment.
Mount Williamson depicts both our judgment and our salvation. From studying the photograph one can begin to see the mountains are made from the boulders presented in front of them. No single boulder can support natures fragile ecosystem, a mountain on the other hand is the home to plants, and animals; allowing life to be sustained. It is not just one boulder that makes the mountain, but many boulders together that create the base of the ecosystem. This idea of home also rings true for mankind. When mankind is able to unite and form their own “mountains” or communities, we are able to accomplish so much more than we could on an individual level by integrating the fundamentals of divinity into society. Love, compassion, and humanity can come from one, but are created by many united as one.
Strongest aspect of the photograph is the lighting. Adams’ uses shadow and shade to create this image of heaven and hell. The individual boulders are all masked by this darkness, spawn feelings of oppression, fear, discontent, and gloom. These elements structure the feeling that this valley is hidden deep in the sins and conflict. When looking at the boulders we begin to feel like we are all alone, in a world with so many others. Our body wants to scream, as though searching for the comfort of another. The Mountains, however, hold a much different feel. Rays of light from the clouds illuminate the peaks placing it in an atmosphere of respect and true enlightenment. This shows how humanity is directly linked to the essence of unity. When the boulders unite to form mountains, they create a true sense of wisdom and divinity. These results hold true for mankind as well. When we bond to form a united people, the results construct the basic foundation for all functional society.
Society today has begun slowly eroding the mountains of unity, forcing individuals to bear the burden of humanity. This is evident in every second of every day. We live in a society where families live on the streets, just trying to survive, while at the same time the government drops yet another bomb on a struggling country over seas. An imperfect society that idolizes and funds talent-less celebrities, yet show little to no respect or compensation to the doctors and teachers; those who truly aids in the community .The unity’s essential for a society to succeed, but these jobs that support and maintain the growth of society don’t get the highest wages, or the most esteem.
Conner Lloyd is an exceptional student, athlete, and ultimately an incredible friend. We had met in the summer separating the giant leap from middle school to high school, at a summer rowing camp. Our friendship never had a defining beginning, for it was something different. The first time we met, seemed to be a just another rotation of a cycle. His report card had never seen a flaw, his families were genuinely happy people, and God had given him incredible athletic talents. Even though I was consistently struggling where he was succeeding, he convinced me to try out with him for the novice boys rowing team.
It was early in the spring when Conner had gotten into the car accident, ripping apart his seemingly perfect world. The driver was drunk and took a turn to wide, directly colliding with PG &E service truck. His injuries were critical and it was nearly two weeks before he was transferred out of the ICU. Slowly through months of physical therapy and surgeries Conner is finally close to being fully recovered. These sorts of accomplishment, nevertheless, cannot come from one person.
What he was able to persevere through is an outstanding triumph; however, his success essentially came from the unity of the community. The doctors spent countless hours working together, his family brought sleeping bags to spend nights in his barren hospital room, and we (his friends) were known on a first name basis by the nursing staff. Essentially his recovery can be compared to Adams’ photograph of Mount Williamson. Conner’s health and recovery represent the mountains, mountains that were built on the unity of his doctors, family, and supporting friends. Without the boulders uniting together, the mountains would ultimately erode and crumble.
Famed Harvard Rowing coach, William A. Ward, once told his team that; “adversity causes some men to break; and others to break records.” Our novice team had tasted defeat and victory, but nothing prepared us for the foul taste of fear and adversity. As a team we went to visit Conner Lloyd when he was still in the ICU unit, relying on all sorts of machines to survive. Standing in silence with the monotone bleeps of the heart monitor, our team grew from a band of individuals into a family. Everything about our team changed in that sterile hospital room, it wasn’t just a friend affected in a car accident, he was our brother.
As Conner was beginning to venture outside his hospital bed, our team had a new incentive and our newfound unity was evident in the results of our races. At the beginning of the season our coach told us that “the team is only as fast as the slowest rower.” And going into the regional finals we knew our slowest rower was damn fast. 34 boats from six states came up to Sacramento to compete for gold. Our blood, sweat, and tears from the entire season all came together for one mere 2,000 meter race.
At the starting line, seeing our competition all around us, we began to question everything. The announcer called the start of the race and our unity eroded before our eyes. At 500 meters down we were dead last, until we began to understand the importance of coming together. In a few strokes we began to come together. The oars sliced through the water in unison, and our bodies robotically united to form the same rhythm; we began to fly through the water. Last became, second, and with ten strokes second became first, by a mere a third of second. Rowing into the dock we saw Conner, ecstatic in his wheelchair, and as a full team celebrated in our victory.
Through the filter of Adam’s camera we can see that the team at first was individual boulders, individually struggling in hopes of achieving personal success. However, after Conner’s accident, we subconsciously became the family needed to pull through. The day of Regional Championships a wide variety of boulders, came together to become the essential Mountains of Williamson, and accomplished a united set of goals.
Ansel Adam’s photograph of Mount Williamson displays a disturbing image of truth about today’s society. Individually we cannot achieve the same results that a community can. The bliss brought about by team work and unity ultimately creates a strong sense of divinity; breeding humanity and compassion.