Faith Moment
September 9, 2013
Slow Down

In 1995, the movie "Smoke" was released, starring Harvey Kietel and William Hurt. The center of the film is the Brooklyn Cigar Company, located at the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue.

In the story, Auggie Wren, played by Harvey Keitel, was the owner of the Brooklyn Cigar Company. Every morning at 8 o’clock, Auggie walked across the street to take a photograph of his store. The angle of the camera never varied; just the weather, the people on the street, and the color of the sky.

One of Auggie’s customers was Paul Benjamin, an author who was suffering from writer’s block. It had plagued him since the death of his wife, Ellen, who was shot and killed one morning right outside the Brooklyn Cigar Company.

One day, Paul wandered into the store and happened to see Auggie’s camera. The two began talking, and Auggie revealed that photography was his hobby, his art, and actually, his life’s work. Paul was so interested in his photographs that Auggie closed up shop and took Paul back to his home to show off his collection.

When they arrived, Auggie pulled out a set of large, heavy photo albums. Paul picked one up and opened the first page to find four photos mounted on a stark black background, all of Auggie’s shop, the Brooklyn Cigar Company, on the corner of Third and Eighth. All were taken from exactly the same place, at exactly the same angle.

Paul turned to the next page and found the same thing: four photographs of Auggie’s shop, all taken from the same place, at the same angle. He turned another page, and, again, it looked identical.

Puzzled, he started turning the pages faster, and then faster, until finally he was rapidly flipping through the book. He was stopped short as Auggie put a hand down on the back page and said, "You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down."

"But Auggie", said Paul, "they’re all the same."

"They're all the same," Auggie replied, "but each one is different from all the others." He had taken 4,000 pictures of the same place, but each photo was different. "It's my corner, after all,” he said. “I mean, it's just one little part of the world, but things take place there, too, just like everywhere else. It's a record of my little spot."

Paul turned back to the album and began slowly turning the pages. Suddenly, he stopped. Could it be possible? There, in one of the 4,000 photos, he saw someone he knew: his wife, who was pregnant when she was shot and killed one morning on the street outside the store. "It's Ellen," he said. "Look at her. Look at my sweet darling." And he began to cry. In slowing down, the perspective had changed. The photos no longer looked the same.

Maybe you, like me, are sometimes in need of a new perspective. In Auggie’s words, “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.”

With Love,

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