Aaron C. Greenman: Facing Reality in a Virtual World

There is so much about the modern world, and our experiences within it, that is virtual. Cities teem with foreign neighborhoods, adapted shadows of their homes; movies and television transport us to other lands, without risk or consequence; the internet, where the lure of virtual travel, taste, sociability, gaming, porn, is limitless.

And what have we ultimately achieved through this? Do we have a better sense of ourselves, and where we come from – the land? No matter how advanced, cool and technologically impressive, the virtual falls short of reality – by definition, “very close to being something without actually being it.”

As the world becomes more populous and those in the countryside move to cities, and those in cities live more similar lives wherever they are, satisfaction with the virtual has not only distanced us from reality, but in effect allowed reality – and in particular the environmental reality – to suffer.

Large tracts of the surface of Africa – long dismissed as a place that missed out on its seat at the table of the modern world – remain true to its reality. During my years spent in East Africa, my days felt more connected to the land, despite the obvious rupture from the world in which I was raised. Life’s rhythm flowed with nature’s elements – sun, moon, stars, seasons – and pleasures – fire, warmth, conversation, a walk – were more elemental, pure and understandable.

Once Africa is in you, it does not leave – its joyousness, fear, exhilaration and foreboding, irrevocable tragedy. Through its peaks and valleys, it is nothing if not real, and it is this crash course with the survival’s fundamentals that create a human connection stronger than bits and bytes.

From two forward thinkers who were able to more eloquently stir others to real action, inside and outside the mind:

“When you make the finding yourself — even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light — you’ll never forget it.” – Carl Sagan

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” - Wangari Maathai

- Aaron C. Greenman

Aaron C. Greenman has been a photographer for over 25 years and has lived and worked on four continents. He has previously been profiled on The Leica Camera Blog for his work in India, Israel, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, and throughout Western Europe. More of his East African images can be viewed here and at acuitycolorgrain.com and his first monograph is now available for the iPad.