Oct 23 2011

The Third Eye

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the word “abstract” a number of different ways.  Two of the definitions are: “considered apart from concrete existence or a specification thereof” and “not easily understood; abstruse.”  The word “abstract” is also used to describe a type of photography.  Abstract photos tend to be more creative or contemplative than straightforward.   Some people like abstract images, others don’t.  While visiting a quaint fishing village in Maine a couple of weeks ago I worked on some abstract images.  I had a chance to do so again last night when I paid a visit to a nearby state park.   I happen to like abstract images.  To me there is something soulful about them, and I mean that literally.  Abstract images often speak to or come from the soul.

Having had a chance to do some abstract photography recently has made me think about the various ways we see the world, ways we see Creation.  A book both Rob and I have been reading lately is Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.  In this fascinating work Rohr suggests that there are three primary ways of seeing things.  He identifies the first eye as “the eye of the flesh” which takes in thought and sight.  The second eye is “the eye of reason,” which includes meditation or reflection.  The third eye is “the eye of true understanding” or contemplation.  Rohr goes on to define contemplation as “an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see other hidden material.”

Abstract photography seems to be served by the third eye.  As I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I am seeing more and more the importance of a non-dualistic approach to life.  Rohr believes too many people see things only dualistically.  It’s either all or nothing, black or white, up or down, right or wrong, etc.  We truly do need a third set of eyes for the world God has created is far more complex and multi-layered than any of us could ever imagine.  There is always far more going on than we realize.  We simply have to be humble and acknowledge that we don’t see everything or know it all.

In abstract pictures things do not always make sense; they cannot easily be explained.  Still, they can be quite beautiful.  Likewise, much in the world and in our lives do not make sense.  That, however, does not mean that there is no beauty even in those “abstract” areas.  Increasingly it is becoming apparent to me that I need to be open to seeing things from different viewpoints.  I need to be willing to look through lenses that may not be comfortable at first.  If God is all the Scriptures say He is, then it should not surprise us at all that we will need many different sets of eyes to behold His beauty, majesty and glory.  There is a mysterious side to God that we cannot deny.  For some reason, taking abstract photographs reminds me of this important truth on a regular basis.


(I took the top two images at Jenny Wiley State Park yesterday evening.  The bottom picture was taken a couple of weeks ago at Lubec, Maine.)

Feb 21 2010

Listening With Your Eyes

Jenny-Wiley-SP-last-light-“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…?” Psalm 8:3-4

This past week I read Mitch Albom’s new book, Have a Little Faith.  This book is similar in many ways to his earlier bestseller, Tuesday’s With Morrie.  One of the main characters in the new book is Mitch’s childhood rabbi and scattered throughout are brief passages from his rabbi’s sermons.  The following one caught my attention.

“A little girl came home from school with a drawing she’d made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner. ‘Mom, guess what?’ she squealed, waving the drawing.  Her mother never looked up.  ‘What?’ she said, tending to the pots.  ‘Guess what?’ the child repeated, waving the drawing.  ‘What?’ said the mother, tending to the plates.  ‘Mom, you’re not listening.’  ‘Sweetie, yes I am.’  ‘Mom,’ the child said, ‘you’re not listening with your eyes.’”

I love the idea of listening with your eyes.  There is so much God has to say to us in His Creation but a lot of us are not listening, not with our eyes anyway.  We tend to think we can only hear with our ears but that is not true.  In many instances we will have to use our eyes to hear what God is saying to us.

In viewing the beauty of his handiwork we might hear Him say how much He loves us.  In observing some of the devastation caused by our own hands we might hear Him say that we have work to do to restore His Creation.  In noticing the incredible detail in tiny flowers or lichens on rocks we may hear God say that He cares about every little detail in our lives.  Watching the moon rise we may hear His challenge to let our “lights shine before men.”

Like the little girl’s mother, some of us think we are listening to God when we’re really not.  The problem is we’re not listening with our eyes.


(The image above was taken at nearby Jenny Wiley State Park.)

Jan 6 2010


Jenny-Wiley-SP-sunset-Today, January 6, is Epiphany, an annual Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi or Wise Men.  The word “epiphany” means a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.   For Christians there can be no denying that the coming of Jesus was the greatest epiphany of all.  In him God was revealed or made manifest like at no other time.  In the words of theologian John A. T. Robinson, in Jesus we see “the human face of God.”

There are, however, many other epiphanies recorded in the Scriptures.  Examples include the burning bush Moses encountered, Isaiah’s vision in the Temple, and the cloud espied by Peter, James and John at Jesus’ Transfiguration.  In a sense, the whole Bible is the record of God making Himself known in one way or another.

On this day of Epiphany I would simply like to remind you that the God who made Himself known in so many different ways in the past continues to make Himself known to us today.  God is not someone who tries to hide from us.  Instead, He longs for us to know Him better.  In the Scriptures many of God’s epiphanies made use of nature (wind, fire, water, etc.).  I believe they still do.   

John Muir once wrote, “Now all of the individual ‘things’ or ‘beings’ into which the world is wrought are sparks of the Divine Soul variously clothed upon with flesh, leaves, or that harder tissue called rock, water, etc…”  God’s Creation has, indeed, been fashioned so that we can experience the Creator behind it.

So why don’t we see God more often in nature?  Perhaps it is because we fail to look for Him there?  Maybe we’ve even been conditioned to think He can only speak in churches or through sacred writings.  The God who made the universe is free to reveal Himself whenever and wherever He chooses.   The Scriptures remind us that God’s epiphanies often occur in nature.  Shouldn’t that cause us to look around us more carefully?


(The image above was taken at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.)