Monday, 27 July 2009

high speed surface details with slow speed underlying certainties

river liza ennerdale flow at 4000th sec copy

These two photographs were taken within moments of each other. They are identically framed, showing exactly the same view of  the River Liza in Ennerdale. Even though the resulting images look very different, the only technical difference between them was the shutter speed. The top photo was taken at 1/4000 sec, and the movement of the water has been frozen; individual droplets and the chaotic nature of the current at the surface are all readily apparent. Without a camera this all happens much too fast for us to be able to see the action with this degree of definition. Less clear is the bed of the river. In contrast the slow shutter speed of 1/10 sec in the second photo has blurred the surface details of the flow so that more persistent patterns river liza ennerdale flow at 10th sec copywithin the current become visible and what lies beneath, although blurred, is easier to make out. This image has a much more ethereal quality to it than the first. Time has juxtaposed and superimposed chaotic fine detail to show us what we do not normally see.

Looking at our life is like this. Each moment is different. It is good to be mindful of the details of the stream of  our being as it flows through the ever present moment of our perception. The high speed surface detail in the upper shot seems to me to be a good metaphor for what life feels like sometimes, a maelstrom in miniature with so much happening  and so many things clamouring for our attention. It is then that it is good to slow the shutter speed of perception and see through the chaos and detail to the calmer picture of enduring flows and underlying certainties. In a sense this is what our faith tradition seeks to do. The pastoral eye which notices details and cherishes individualities also gives good attention to the enduring divine realities within and beneath human experience. One photo without the other gives half a story. In Jesus I see both high and slow shutter speeds of perception in harmony and symmetry. If only the same were true of my own seeing.

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