Friday, November 13, 2009

On Humility

We believe that Jesus is the revelation of God – the face of God, if you will. It is through Jesus that we are given a living window to the Divine, to where we come from. Teachings of Jesus tell us something of what God is like.
Jesus on occasion highlighted the importance of humility. And so we can push the envelope a bit and ponder the humility of God and what it means for us, who are made in God’s image. We are asked in the gospel to not be afraid to take a back seat. Andy Warhol once said that in the future everyone would get what they so desperately want – that is, five or so minutes of fame. Christians are asked to be at the other end of the spectrum.
We are dealing with a hidden God, a God who is all through creation and peeks out a bit through the Incarnation, and then recedes, recedes into us and all that is about us and around us. And this is the startling truth of it all – that being is truthful in its humility. A friend of mine recently said that truth is humble, that humility is truth. If God has taken a back seat in creation, perhaps the cue for us is to trust the guy in the rear of the theater. He is watching what he has created from a distance, yet is, at the same time, in the midst of the audience.
Maybe he has a camera, too.
A few weeks ago a photographer died and his name was Roy DeCarava. He was raised by a single mother in Harlem. He never moved far from there. He remained in New York City his entire life and photographed thousands of scenes of the ordinarily sublime. Perhaps his most famous photograph is of a little girl in a white, pristine graduation dress, heading down a desolate, shadowed street somewhere in a long ago Harlem. I looked at other photographs of his on the Internet and they capture a beauty of life that survives, and even shines, in desolate surroundings. He taught at Hunter College and tried to impart to his students a sense of photography’s unique power. Of the scenes that he captured through his lens, he said, as quoted in his obituary, that “It doesn’t have to be pretty to be true. But if it is true, it is beautiful. Truth is beautiful. And so my whole work is about what amounts to a reverence for life itself.”
I like to think that in what he saw in life, and what he made lasting and beautiful through the magic of his camera, offer us more than a glimmer of the relationship between God, humility and ourselves. If truth is all about us, this life as Word that is spoken from a shy, reserved creator, we are then asked to humbly seek the beauty that is everywhere and in everyone, perhaps especially in those places and persons that are not very pretty. God is telling us something through these. You can hear him by looking at some photographs.

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