I don’t have a photo for this. I don’t think there’s one in my library or my queue, or buried somewhere in my phone storage that could properly do this justice.
Over the weekend, a particular article on my Flipboard caught my attention – a piece titled something to the effect of “Popular Instagram Photographer Dies In Subway Stunt Gone Wrong”. Something like that. Of course, I clicked the link and ended up giving the story a quick read.
The Instagrammer’s name was Christopher Serrano – known to most of his fans and followers as Heavy_Minds. The username sounded familiar for some reason, so I opened up my Instagram app and found out that I was actually already following him.
And then I opened his page, and realized just how terrible I was with names.
The guy was one of the first people I followed, back when I had just decided to change my Instagram from a private to a public account. He was part of that initial wave of gimme follows – the stream of likes and follows you send out on your Explore page to get your feelers out there, and maybe get a few follows back out of it. But the images that kept popping up on my feed since then were distinct – daring. I never really spent too much time on the page itself, but I’d always linger for a little bit longer over these insane shots that just had to involve hands and limbs dangling off buildings – these absolutely breathtaking views of a camera hanging obscenely high, looking down on different parts of the New York skyline. It was something completely just not in my vein of photography. I take shots of people, nature, abandoned places – never would I find myself scaling buildings that are giants to the flecks of dust going about their business in the urban sprawl below. The pulse – the excitement was palpable, even through the tiny screen I held in my hand.
The realization that the person behind those photos is gone gave me a bit of pause, sitting there in an Edison pizzeria, otherwise having an okay day.
I know right away what my father would tell me about the matter. 25 years is a life cut short by any measure of the imagination, but my old man has always been a big believer in your passions measuring the richness of your life. If this photographer spent his time chasing what he loved, the circumstances of death just don’t matter. The life was one well-lived, and should be celebrated without a doubt.
Other people in my life would argue differently – that passions are important, but so is your place in the living world. That with people connected and counting on and loving you, you can’t afford to just throw caution to the wind in the pursuit of what you want. You can chase your passions, but to a certain limit.
As for me, I don’t know what to think. Yes, life is important, but one small twitch on your thread, and it’s over, just like that. One small slip in the world, and everything can change – for you, for the people connected to you, for people you may not even have met yet. Why not spend your time taking the world by the shoulders and taking everything you want out of it while you can?
But the fear, and the weight, and the connections, and the links are still there. We don’t have nothing to lose, and that will always be on the table. How do you just let go and live like that?
Can anyone step out of their body at 25 years, look back, and say “This was worth it all?”.
The most any of us can do is live to the best we can. Take the moments – take what we can – and keep them close. Close as memory. I want to believe that the key to life is conquering the moment – not letting yourself be drawn into the sway – swept along in the tide.
Of course, that’s always been easy to say.
Stay strong. And to all those mourning Serrano’s death or celebrating his life, my thoughts are out there with you too.