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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hearing a picture




I am reading a wonderful book entitled Picasso's War by Russell Martin. It is about how Picasso came to create his masterpiece Guernica, and what went into that work of art. Picasso was a Spaniard who lived in Paris for most of his life. Throughout the book the author interviews various people who state some version of  this theory:
        "Spanish people are people who look, who trust and love the visual. They are a people of the eye."

As someone who is most definitely NOT a person of the eye, I am fascinated by those who, like Picasso (or Spaniards in general, if you prefer the stereotype), are visual people. My brother is an artist, and he sees things I would never see. I see a picture like Guernica, and I don't even know where to begin. Even now, after 30 years of looking at that painting I still don't get it.

I am a person of the ear. For me, I listen for distinctions. When I read (which I take as a form of listening, and someone, say, Picasso, takes as a form of seeing) I hear inflections, tones, whispers, shouts, all the stuff that goes into "voice." As a musician, my sense of hearing goes to harmonies, upbeats, and contrapuntal themes. (By the way, just because I listen doesn't mean I've heard you...just ask my wife or kids.) I suppose we all have our preferences for how we process the world. Maybe you use your eyes, your ears, your sense of touch or smell?

Also, there are people who are almost forced, because of circumstances, to favor one sense or the other. Ray Charles, for example, being blind from a young age, depended a lot on his sense of hearing. There is no one sense that needs to be the "one" you process life through, but maybe we all have one that we actually do?

For example, until I got my Blackberry I never owned a camera. I never page through picture books. I read comic books and graphic novels for the plot. (That drives my brother nuts. I could read a comic book in 10 minutes, he would take three days.) I love to look at beautiful things, I love good smells, and a fine linen shirt is a precious thing. Taste? Well, you don't get to be my size being picky, but I prefer a malty beer or a sharp bourbon with the best of them. But all of that I can take or leave...but bad music I do not tolerate--or actually listen to--thank God for SiriusXM radio!

One of the interesting stories about Jesus comes in the 9th chapter of Mark, where he talks about not letting a "member" of your body lead you astray. That is, don't worry about getting everything into heaven, even one eye is enough for God. I think Jesus is on to something important here. If, as the Spaniards in Martin's book suggest, we live through one of our senses, we see that as a gift of God. If God has blessed you with eyes to see or ears to hear, then look and listen! Use those senses to make sense of our world. (and if circumstances cause you to favor one or the other, do not lament what you don't have, but celebrate what you do!)

What sense do you primarily process life through? How do you know what to trust, what to value, what to focus on as you go from day-to-day? I still like Picasso, and I will never pretend to see what he saw...but I will cherish all that he left me to look at as I listen for the voice of God.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.



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