Aug 2020

Do we need a new PERSPECTIVE?

Firstly, greetings to all faithful readers of this monthly, diocesan, catholic publication: ‘Upon this Rock.’

I am sure you will initially be a bit surprised by a new face.

Fr. Stuart is presently on a well-deserved extended break and until his return, I will write the Foreword. So, please, fear not. I trust you will not mind me standing-in.

Also, I pray that you are all well. I’m sure this pandemic and subsequent measures can be most draining, even to the very best of people. 

Permit me to be honest. It is in times like these that we review the important things in life, especially, the fragility of life and the world. Correction: even in times like these, we are made strong with God’s grace. The important thing is to maintain a positive frame of mind. Yet, I suppose, that people differ in how they see, perceive and interpret the world.

Talking about perception. What do you see in these images?

In the first picture on the left, some may see an older or younger woman. In the middle image, you may see two men looking at each other or a vase. In the final image on the right, you might see a face or a man wearing a hat and playing the saxophone. Don’t worry if you cannot see both sides of each picture. This style of illustrations shares one common pattern: they are all intentionally ambiguous. These images can make your vision and brain work harder to discover alternate facets/meanings to an image. They can be fun, but, they can also reveal how we see and give meaning to the world around us. 

This has a bearing on our sense of sight when things are not going that well. Do we see what we want to see or -with a little more focus- do we discover a hidden image that previously was not that apparent.

The right attitude or the proper vision shows itself most clearly in the midst of tragedies. 

The humble person suffers, just like the arrogant person, but the humble person is strong enough to keep things in proper perspective in the midst of suffering. And as a result, a right vision actually makes suffering fruitful.

Cardinal Faulhaber, one of the courageous leaders of the Church in Germany during the tragic period surrounding World War I, witnessed this kind of True Sight in action.

He was once visiting a veterans’ hospital reserved for soldiers in all stages of blindness. Some could see light faintly; others could see nothing. As he walked quietly through the wards, he heard one young soldier praying: 

“Lord, I beg you not to take away the light of my eyes. But if it is your will that I should be deprived of it, then leave me, at least, the light of my mind. But if it is your will that I be deprived of that, leave me, at least, the light of my faith.”

The Cardinal stopped and asked:

“Son, where did you learn that beautiful prayer?”

The soldier answered:

“Your eminence, when I was a boy in Austria, I used to lead the old Cardinal of Vienna into his garden and stay with him there. He was 90 years old. I heard him say that prayer often. I have never forgotten it.”

A right perspective had given that young soldier’s soul 20/20 spiritual vision, and that vision was giving him strength amid terrible suffering.

The Big Picture

The right outlook always gives us strength amid suffering, because it reminds us that there is a bigger story going on, and it helps us keep first things first, and to see clearly what those first things really are.

In psychological/medical studies of Michelangelo’s famous picture from the Sistine chapel ‘The Creation of Adam’ (shown above), claims were made that… “what almost everyone has missed is the hidden message that Michelangelo inserted: a human brain dissimulated in the figure of God.” In other words, there is supposed to be a hidden image of a human brain as you gaze upon God and His enveloping cloak.

If you would like my penny’s worth on this, I would say that we are then missing the Big Picture. I think these studies are trivial – and I think a significant and remarkable clue is missed: God is passing the spark of life from his finger to Adam – just like the spark of life which ignites the petrol/air mixture in the combustion chamber of a petrol engine. Michelangelo is giving us his perception on the true meaning of life, in one word: GOD. How God creates man; how God gives life to humanity.

I use this example to illustrate that we can all fail to see the Big Picture! We oftentimes omit God from the scene we are looking at or we cannot appreciate what action he is in fact taking. Oh yes, we are totally free to relinquish the divine or the spiritual, but, doing so, are we seeing what we want to see, or, what is really, actually there? Is the world in a better place by not including God in the scene? I will let you reach your own conclusions.

Personally speaking I have met very few people with perfect 20/20 physical and spiritual vision. I am reminded of the soldier in our story earlier on. He talked of the light of eyes, light of mind and light of faith. In a way, three types of light: eyes, mind and faith. Perhaps, when watching the world and our own lives, we require a combination of all three types of light. We do not just see things. Upon what we see, we reason. But always, allowing faith to shed its light upon our eyes and minds. We always will need God’s spark of light that Michelangelo so aptly painted. It is not just Adam’s creation, it is also ours!