“We have to read a book and do reports… for a PHOTO CLASS?”
Yes. How dare I require students to READ in high school. How unheard of! How dare I ruin the contemporary bragging rites I’ve heard far too many times “I got through high school without reading a single book!”
My usual response “That’s nothing to be proud of.”
The book in question - or rather a book that raises so many questions, points out why my compulsion to make reading compulsory is important.
“Plato wrote - and I lettered this in firm italic letters and posted it on my dorm room door- “All learning which is acquired under compulsion has no hold upon the mind.”
I’m not sure he was right there. During my school and college years I learned a good bit under at least moderate compulsion. I’d never have taken math or science had they been optional (but I enjoyed the poster on my dormitory door!).
- Madeline L’Engle : Reflections on Faith and Art
Five years ago Madeleline L’Engle, whose book of thoughts on faith and art has meant so much to me, left worldly chronological time behind and entered the life of eternity. Writer Jeffrey Overstreet reminded me of this on his Facebook post this morning. He quoted one passage from her Faith and Art book which I will share as well.
First though, a short note on her use of Greek words for “time.”
The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to sequential (chronological) time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. In Greek speaking Orthodox churches the word kairos is used in the Liturgy for “time” indicating that this is not chronological time, but rather a moment when time intersects with Eternity. These two different words for “time” indicate just where L’Engle is pointing us when she discusses the mystery of faith and art.
Kairos is “That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we’re constantly checking our watches for chronological time.
The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside herself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, co-creators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.”
- Madeline L’Engle : Reflections on Faith and Art
November 29, 1918 – September 6, 2007
I’ve been told by more than a few former students that this book did what I had hoped it would do - that it opened the student’s mind and spirit to new ways of looking at the mystery of life. I challenged them to use the camera as a way of seeing, as the means to find beauty shining through darkness. The viewfinder is a tool, a window placed over the world, whereby order is found hidden in what often appears to be chaos.
Watching E.T. outdoors at Pioneer Square in Portland, Oregon on a warm Summer night.
In 1936, in the midst of an unrelenting workload and the near-demise of his marriage, legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams suffered a nervous breakdown. After a stay in hospital, desperately in need of escape, Adams then returned with his family to the one place where he could find solace: Yosemite, California.
Some months later, as his health returned, he wrote the following beautiful letter to his best friend, Cedric Wright.
(Source: Letters of a Nation; Image: Ansel Adams in Yosemite, California, c.1942, courtesy of ck/ck.)
June 19, 1937
A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that related to those who are loved and those who are real friends.
For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be.
Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it.
Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.
I wish the thundercloud had moved up over Tahoe and let loose on you; I could wish you nothing finer.
In Portland, the coffee is always beautiful.
I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.
Wishing you a Happy Christmas
Photograph: Pioneer Square. Portland, Oregon. Winter storm 2008.
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