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In praise of graffiti and holiday photos

By Sky Xu (Global Times)

14:36, June 17, 2013

Tourists love to leave their mark on places they visited. They write down their names. They carve the date and time of their visit. They paint graffiti. It's bad behavior, for sure. But why do they do it?

Putting the whole question about ethics aside, I think maybe part of the reason is that we all want to leave our marks in some way, prove our existence somehow.

It's not really all that different from snapping pictures and posing with a V sign to the annoyance of all the other travelers, if you think about it. Why do we take pictures when we travel? It's the same reason that when you are going away on vacation, people say to you, take loads of pictures!

Scribbling on the Great Wall is bad behavior; but the carved names of you and your boyfriend on the tree back home are nostalgic. Not that I endorse signing the Luxor Temple with "Sky was here." But apparently merely having "been there done that" isn't enough. We need some tangible proof, either in pixels or in scrawls.

Back in ancient times, people still traveled, and embarked on adventures. How do we know that? Because some of them drew or painted, and some wrote poems or essays - sometimes on walls!

Ask yourself this: if you cannot tell anyone about your journey after you get back, would you still take the trip, and would you have enjoyed it as much as you'd have otherwise? What if you would have no memory of it?

Apparently there are different types of people. There are those who adopt the "live in the moment" philosophy of life. The journey is all that matters. They are the people who would tell you that you don't need to take 50 gigabytes of photos to prove that you've had a good time on your vacation. You just need take in everything with your eyes and your heart.

And then there's the rest of us mortals whose immediate response to a scene of beauty, right after wowing, is to take out the cameras so that we can share it with others back home and relive that moment again and again after we get back.

I know that the first approach sounds so much cooler. But unfortunately I'm one of those who get upset when they miss an opportunity to capture the moment.

You know what they say: all the experiences you have in life make you who you are. But if there's no memory of those experiences, would you still be the same person? Why do we sigh and weep when someone we love have Alzheimer's? We say, "That's just not who he or she was any more."

You might have been asked this question: If your house caught on fire, and you could only save one item, what would you save? Many people pick their photo albums. I think there's something incredibly romantic in that answer. It is certain proof of our past is as important as the memory itself.

The photos are a reminder of who we used to be. In the end, the most important proof we could have of our past, good or bad, is the person that we are today.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.

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