Recently we had rain here. We had also recently planted up some flower beds, in hopes of spring’s arrival. I will keep silent on that topic, but I did notice after the rain that in the flowerbed, the way the rain hit the ground and the tiny pebbles that sat on top of some dirt, the rainwater washed away the dirt in such as way as to create this amazing miniature canyon in the flowerbed.
I am currently writing a fantasy novel and when I saw this canyon, I immediately thought: what a cool place for my characters to go! I got down on my hands and knees and tried to take a picture of into remind me of the look and feel of that environment. You can see that effort above.
When I look at the picture, I do not get the same feeling of tiny canyon that I got upon seeing it in real life. Something about the flatness of the photograph takes the wonder and amazement of the tiny canyon away. In the photo, it seems, it is just a pile of dirt with some mulch displaced. No longer do I see the ancient ruins, the hidey-holes for gnomes or elves, the well-known worn pathways or the landmark rock formations. It has become flat in the photograph.
I could wonder if I am a poor photographer, but in this case I choose to wonder instead about the attempts to capture a magical moment, frozen in time. There are some things that cannot be captured. They are experienced in the moment and the moment passes. They live in memory, but even my memory of the tiny canyon is superior (and more deeply felt) than the photograph.
I am doing some research for an upcoming sermon on John 10 (Jesus’s discourse on the healing of the man born blind) and I came across a profound statement about change: “Those who are satisfied with their own condition are the ones condemned to remain in it.” wow. Didn’t see that coming.
While all this could be mildly depressing, I see it as a good reminder to not allow myself to remain static. Live life to the fullest – whether it be by introspection and improvement or continually practicing presence (or both). I have sometimes blamed myself for not taking more pictures of my kids, like at their birthday parties or other milestone moments. I often didn’t bother to get out the camera because I was enjoying the real thing and I didn’t want to stop and be a third party observer of my own life. Looking at it this way, that seems like a really good thing.
Before I go off on a rant about technology and how it both brings us together and separates us, I will end with my favorite Howard Thurman quote: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
The world does not have to consist of the flat images of the past, distanced from my memory and understanding. When I live in wonder and delight at the tiny canyons and look forward to exploring them – to see where they might lead or what I might find there, I am in that moment fully alive – and I relish it.