Hovering with the Hair Gelled cat
Preparing for Lent
Genesis:” Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.“
Give me the Grace, Lord not to be satisfied only by the images evoked by the word
but to seek to understand the deep meaning that is beyond representation.”
In my morning meditation I was called to go beyond an understanding based on images. The exhortation gave me pause. I was reminded of an exercise that arose by accident during a time when I was struggling to express my sadness at the loss of the big screen cinema experience. There was a time when we gathered together in a huge dark space with strangers to sit gazing up at an image expressly created by an artist practised in the art of communication via a vast expansive vista. As the proliferation of “personal” computers began, I found my own work in the cinema becoming obsolete. Images I had created to be experienced three stories high were now going to be peered down at on the screens of devices that clipped the actual composition and adjusted the tone and quality of the film to suit the convenience of the device being used.
I see now how the idea of going beyond a simple image when I contemplate Scripture is really an invitation to plumb the depths that I am actually seeking in all my furious clicking and flitting from one screen to another. This morning’s invitation reminds me of the incident that helped me explain why I was so dedicated to preserving the big screen experience and now I would say I am even more dedicated to the preservation of the transmission of hope and ideas via the word. The word allows everyone their own image of an idea- effectively it multiplies the ways God can be perceived. One afternoon as I wrestled with my argument for a personal experience “in the company of others” with regard to the cinema, a friend called me.
“My two year old daughter just hair gelled the cat.” She said to me. Immediately there was a very vivid image in my mind. “I should have taken a picture..” My friend added.
“No! No!” I replied. And I thanked her for having given me such a wonderful example of the power of words over images. “Everyone you tell will have their own hair gelled cat!” I explained, “yet the meaning of the event, the heart and soul of this hilarious anecdote is not changed by there being no image attached. Indeed you would inhibit people’s imaginations by replacing their versions of the cat with ‘what is real’.”
Today I mourn the loss of the human capacity for description. I love hearing or reading a friend’s detail of something they have seen or felt, yet more and more people show me or send me pictures instead of taking the time to express their experience in words.
I mean no disrespect to the person of the Trinity who had the difficult job of becoming the image of God for many people, but I really prefer the mystery that the other two persons evoke. A picture can fool me into a false sense of security; words draw me closer to the relationship I believe God wants to have with me. If I stop looking at easy to access images this Lenten season maybe I will sit with God in the dark inviting place where the cinema of my life experiences unfolds. That place in my heart where people have etched a description of the love that is God. Perhaps I will find in that depths the truth that is not only beyond images but beyond the word itself. The real silence that all our tiny convenient pictures are drowning out. Silence is God in braille…
Of course asking someone to describe something instead of sending a picture takes time. Maybe God is where the time is taken to understand that a photo, a glimpse of an experience, will not do.