On Seeing – Blog 100

The text below is my 100th creation in the series Take Note!. I am so grateful for my readers, commenters and subscribers. Also to both my editors, Linda and Dorothy. Also to Kathie who does hear all too often “did you read my latest blog?” Finally, to Juno, my pawed protégé. Love you all. Ken

Photography by the author.

“Why are we always talking about Love?” Such was my complaint back in my evangelical student days. Such a grumble seems incredibly stupid and self-centred now. Then, however, love as a concept and practice seemed too woolly. “Love” was not intellectually challenging. To my mind, a focus on love boiled the Gospel down to a very human practice, “to be nice” to everyone. I was raised with such an ethic, in a comfortable Oak Bay complacency but I wanted something different.

Instead, I wanted sermons and reflections which would unpack biblical passages in exegetical detail. (If the devil is in the details, then Jesus must be in there too.) I wanted preaching from my homiletical heroes. A bit less of the Good Samaritan,  please. Let’s hear from Paul to the Romans in Chapter 7. For me in those days, faith was theoretical, a structure of belief that  understood and interpreted the Biblical message, an auditory gave the assurance of salvation and promise of eternal bliss.

It scares me to revisit what I once believed, preached or practised. Fortunately my sermons from those days are nowhere to be found. I should probably apologize for damage done. As a preacher, as a priest and as a white privileged male with a disability, I have evolved in a good way. You see, love does make the world go round. It is love that puts the theory and foundation of faith, of any faith, into practice, so that real people in real places can experience real benefit through a commodity called Grace. Love requires both an object and an action. Love is a verb!

In a recent blog from the Centre for Action and Contemplation published on Monday, June 25, 2022, I discovered the following texts which I find life-giving:

“Religion at its best teaches us how to ‘see’ with greater clarity, which increases our courage and capacity to love ourselves, others, even our enemies . . . In its truest sense, religion should reconnect human beings—bind them again—to the creation, to one another, to the divine, to love.”

Readers of this blog have heard from me, possibly too often, of my enthusiasm for visual, spiritual language, specifically the language of seeing. My own frustrated eyesight gives me a special appreciation for the art of seeing, and I must say, it is more of an art than a science, though both coincide well. I continue to enjoy sharing ideas about seeing and ways of seeing in photography and environmental presentations recently. People connect well with this approach. It’s no wonder as the way we see the world puts so many things on the table in a wonderful and helpful way.

Visual acuity, which is the gathering of physical data, is only the beginning of seeing and discovering. Our prejudices, our experiences, our intuition, our encounter with beauty, all these collaborate in helping me assess what is truly before me. It could be the natural beauty of a Thompson Rivers Valley landscape. It could be an animal I love and care for; it could be when I discover a very large animal in my camera viewfinder. At other times it could be a parade, or a protest, or an unusual community event which catches my eye. Many including Thomas Merton express such curiosity in photography, a practice that informs and inspires my own work. There is so much in life to see, so much love to discover and share.

“The teaching of rabbi Jesus is simple: Love God. Love neighbour. Love self. Love, period!” Now talking about love is one thing; actually loving, over and over again is both an opportunity and a challenge.”

As the pace of life rarely stops, or slows down, or settles, we all need to find time for love and for wonder in our lives. A constantly growing economy drags us towards an increasingly unjust future with what feels like an inexorable grip. Donniel Hartman, says this:

“A life of faith isn’t just about walking with God, but how one walks with humanity. The core feature of a moral life is to see. Choosing not to see is immoral.”

Whether we turn to the moral codes and cues of faith communities, or whether we find ourselves recalibrating our life in 12-Step programs, or whether we imbibe Indigenous Wisdom, options to consider and live life differently abound. Surely this is good news for yet another Canada Day celebration.

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