Tag Archive: Job 38


whirlwind

whirlwind

During my recent sabbatical I went on pilgrimage, did some Bible study and had a retreat. Alongside that I decided to reflect on my experiences and studies in a way that did not confine my response to “head knowledge” – useful though that can often be. So for part of my theological reflection I painted my response.

The challenge was to find a way of planning and executing the work well without over-thinking it; in fact, I tried not to spend much time consciously thinking about the subject matter if I could help it. That did not mean donning a blindfold, waving my arms about and hoping that paint would land on canvas rather than on the floor, walls or ceiling. What it did mean was that I started out with a vague idea of the shape but otherwise painted randomly on the canvas. Colours were selected according to my mood or what I felt about the subject, rather than according to an accurate representation.

Of course this means that the results say as much about me at the time of painting as it does about the putative subject. However, there were some surprises along the way. For example, my first “Out of the Whirlwind” picture has a face and a two birds on it. They emerged from my random slapping on of thick acrylic paint when I was simply trying to break up the plain background. When I stepped back and saw them I decided not to paint over them but to go round them and let them stand out with a little extra colour here and there. The theological point is that while trying to convey the chaos of the whirlwind of Job chapter 38 verse 1, I ended up with something that made a kind of sense. You may recall that chapter 38 in Job is where Job hears God’s reply to his various complaints. God spoke out of the whirlwind (or storm). Chaos does not stop God being God – God brings order out of chaos (see Genesis chapter 1, for example). What the pictures mean will in part be up to each viewer.

The other pictures relate to the letter to Philemon and to the life of St Francis

Take a look here.

I borrowed this idea from another member of my family. It is a simple one but some of the results were quite interesting. What we did was to go for a walk and we took a camera with us. (A digital one as the idea involved taking lots of photos and deleting most of them). As we walked we took photos of anything that took our fancy, sometimes just turning round on the spot and snapping away at random – not really looking at what we were doing and certainly not taking too much time trying to compose the perfect shot.

We found that you can do this with the Nintendo DS game thing that has a camera built-in or with a standard digital camera. Here are a selection. They are “as is” from a couple of different locations and you may notice that it was a rainy day for some of them!

               

Coming back to this post a little later I wondered if there could be anything spiritual about this. I think there is and it is in the idea of “attentiveness”. As I understand it, attentiveness is when we make a point of paying attention, when we notice things. I think “experts” manage this by looking closely at a leaf or a pebble. Put like that it might seem a bit daft staring at a bit of rock for hours on end but please bear with me.

One of the chief characteristics of our culture is impatience. For example, no sooner have we acquired the latest gadget do we then want the upgrade. Often we want the next thing long before the current thing has worn out. We tend to rush – we might walk down the road but probably hurry or more likely take the car. So we see the buildings, trees, people etc that we pass but we don’t really notice them. Walking rather than driving is a start especially if we don’t have to be somewhere soon and things may become less of a blur: we might notice individual persons rather than just “people”, for instance.

If we slow down we can make a point of looking at things. That’s what the random photos helped with (even though we hadn’t set out with that intention) – we noticed things we hadn’t before: the pile of leaves wasn’t just a mess we had to step around; seen from different angles the metal fence made different patterns; stopping at the bridge meant we saw a train passing; pausing at the bus shelter allowed us to wonder why the poster was all scrunched up.

The more attention we give something, the more we are likely to notice, the more, then, we might appreciate it. We just might value it more. Paying attention, noticing things, “attentiveness”, is a spiritual activity because it can lead us to a better appreciation of the world, nature, creation, and people who surround us in our ordinary lives.

And it’s nice not to be rushed all the time.

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