master and slave

‘One dog barks at something and one hundred bark at the bark’

-Chinese Proverb

In the field of studio photography, artificial lighting is a key factor. There may be several lights used, whether for a portrait or for a product. Lighting is to photography what adjectives are to writing. In today’s world most studios use ‘flash’ light, a micro-second burst of the right amount of light to shape the shadows and highlights. In a photographic studio set up for a product shot or a portrait, there will be at least one light, referred to as the ‘master’ and several other lights, such as fill light, overhead light, side light, background light, hair light. These additional lights are referred to as ‘slaves’ in that they pop, they flash their micro-second of light, only if triggered by the master flash light. When the master flash pops, the slaves also then pop. It all happens in a fraction of a second.

Our psyche-logical functions can operate in a similar fashion. Somebody says or does something, like a flash popping, and we then pop, we react. Reactions are not necessarily appropriate to a situation. They can be counter productive and damaging. For example, you are driving down the road and somebody unexpectedly pulls in front of you. You get angry at them, which does nothing to them, but does cause you a little damage for, indeed, anger within ourselves is toxic. The driver pulling in front of you is the master flash popping and your anger is the slave popping. You are a slave to the master. You are reactive to external situations like a slave flash popping at the command of the master flash.

Consider the many, many situations in day to day living in which you are popping, if even internally only, because somebody else popped. How much of your subjective experience is as a slave, activated by, controlled by, some external master. The master is assigned its position by the slave, unwittingly, unknowingly. The slave has set itself up to pop when the master pops. It is as if the slave went into its own settings menu and opted for slave status. Now, all that is needed is a master to pop and the slave, unthinkingly, reactively, impulsively, compulsively, pops as well.

Being a slave appears to have the advantage of an abdication of responsibility. Responsibility, for a slave, can seem a burden; better to simply be told when to pop, how to pop, where to pop. And yet, at the same time, slaves strive to be the master, to control others. And, indeed, a slave can be a master when others pop because the slave popped. Much of social interaction is comprised of slaves popping slaves popping slaves; a social network of compulsive and impulsive reactions.

A real master, though, does not pop when others pop. A master is not a slave. A master is self-ignited. Every person has within their psyche-logical settings menu the option to be slave or to be master. 

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

– Victor E. Frankl*

(*Victor Frankl is best known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning and a therapeutic approach to life’s challenges called Logotherapy. For further information, visit the Responsibility Foundation.)


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