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Letters to Domai


There's something in the eyes of people who have seen too much. It's not a penny-dreadful haunted look, it's not looking lost, and it's not hopelessness. It is simply overload, a window into a mind that is hesitant to accept something new and beautiful for fear that the imagination will transform it into one of the horrors that lives at the back of consciousness. Many of us share the look. Many of us have been there.

A good friend, a veteran of Viet Nam, once said that talking to me was difficult, as I had not yet been there. We spoke, briefly, after I returned from Iraq. He asked if I understood. My silence spoke for me, and he said, "Now you've got it, too."

Beauty can be a terrible thing, when it is changed in an instant to a broken mockery of itself. I wonder what an Ansel Adams would have done with a twisted landscape, littered with the remains of men and machines, if he could have captured the total experience and made it possible for people who had not felt the reality to bring it inside, and know.

We know each other. I have spoken with veterans of World War II, who look back at me and know. Veterans of Korea, of Vietnam, of all the silly wars we've played at since. And now, it's not only the people in uniform, but also the civilians, the Americans, the Turks, and the Filipinos, all of us together. Not wanting to look too long, because of the fear.

We hope, of course, that we can look at the world some day and see that it is really a most beautiful place, appreciate again the play of light and shadow as sunlight reveals new wonders to play songs on all the millions of pathways in our minds. And if not for us, then for the kids, those who have the years to, with the grace of some benign power, loose the demon and hear the melodies. But, inside, we know. It has become a part of us, an incurable cancer that we can at best, with effort, hold at bay.

I just became a subscriber to DOMAI. I have admired your site for years, and finally decided to sign up, as wandering about the net looking for images was getting rather silly. I took several of your images to Iraq with me, on 3 1/2 inch floppy disks, and used them as a counter to the things we saw every day. I'm afraid that the contrast was a little bit too much at times, just as now, when I have the joy of looking at photographs of Mascha and can't help remembering. She, I think, is probably the most difficult person, as images of her, to me, define innocence, purity, all that was lacking for me and my friends overseas. I must thank you for making it possible for me to just sit and cry, and hopefully, with time, to just enjoy the lovliness you have made available. Thanks.

- Joe K

(I'd prefer that, even should you think this worthy of posting, you leave my name off. I still have to present the "strong, silent" image to my subordinates, because I fear that several of them are in worse shape than I am.)

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