Musings of an Ethnomusicologist on Unrelated Topics
Three nuggets of insight:
1) You don’t look at icons. Icons look at you.
2) That gesture? It’s a benediction. It’s a whole theological statement.
3) They’re household items. They’re meant to be touched, kissed – an interaction.
Entering an exhibit of 18th and 19th century icons at the Graduate Theological Union’s Doug Adams Gallery, my colleague Mauricio offered me these pithy lenses, allowing a marginally more immediate experience of (what I find to be) an opaque medium.
Amazing how a few phrases can shift your subjective experience of a piece so dramatically. If the icon looks at you rather than you at it, it begets a kind of intimacy, a closeness, a personalization of the interaction. One begins to feel the way these communities might have experienced the icons – as “being seen” by the Divine, as rendered into being by the intimate knowledge of one’s existence. How precious a thought to be seen, to be known, to be rendered real by the Divine, the Eternal, the Ultimate.
Because, after all, are we not made more real by the Love of being known?
A pocket icon caught my eye – a trifold metal relief that could easily be tucked away. Discouragement or self-doubt might be cause to remove it from one’s pocket, to gaze upon it, and be caught in the eye of the Divine. Reassurance of one’s realness, one’s Eternal worth, in portable miniature.
Inevitably, the correspondence with our own portable miniatures, our cell phones, struck me. “What a cliche,” I thought. “Just wait until someone compares this to a cell phone.”
Ah, but the comparison is inevitable. Is it not the objective of being seen that accompanies my retreats to Facebook and Email at intervals throughout the day? To see that someone or someones have validated my humor, my insight, my impulse to share? Evidence that I was thought of, rendered real, rendered momentarily indispensable, by another?
Why, yes. These little retreats are opportunities to be blessed, are they not? Because what is blessing aside from being seen, and what is being seen aside from being known, being loved, being indispensable, if only for a moment – for our lives are only a gasp.
How arbitrary the source, in some ways. This prompts some missive on the transformation of our desire for blessing that has moved, ultimately, from the Eternal and Perfect Sacred to the finite and fallible human. A missive for another day.