This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Magic Eye.


            (I have found that this analogy is effective in getting the attention and prying just slightly open the minds of even the most jaded and cynical members of confirmation classes.)

            A few years ago there was a minor fad over a book called The Magic Eye.  The Magic Eye was a collection of computer-generated images that, at first glance, appear to be an array of nearly random shapes and often colors.  A more careful examination reveals certain subtly repeated patterns.  But the images don’t look like anything in themselves, except maybe a kind of abstract art.  The viewer is supposed to stare at the image and intentionally let their eyes relax and unfocus, until seeing a dual image.  Then comes the “magic” part.  After an indefinite period of time, gradually a three-dimensional image resolves into view.  Instead of looking at apparently random colors and shapes, you are viewing an unrelated three-dimensional form.  It is quite striking.
            What happens, I am told, is that the viewer’s brain gradually decodes the 3-d form embedded in the image.  The image itself, of course, does not change.  It is printed on the page in ink.  What changes is the perception of the viewer, enabling them to see a form that is initially invisible… but is always there.  Something inside the viewer changes, and a form appears to emerge out of the printed image.
            While this is happening, that is, while we are staring at the page, all we see is the blurred, dual image.  But then, as the 3-d form starts to resolve, we might even comment, saying, “It’s coming!” because that’s what the emerging perception feels like.  It feels like something that wasn’t there is now beginning to “arrive;” something is showing up that wasn’t there before.  This is not what is happening, of course.  What is actually there on the page doesn’t change.  But we describe it this way because it feels like what is on the page is changing.
            No amount of empirical analysis, no careful deconstruction of the shapes and colors on the page, will lead an observer to conclude that there is a 3-d form embedded in them.  Maybe, if informed that such a form is encoded therein, a person might, with the aid of a computer to do the esoteric math, discover it.  But you’d have to be open to the possibility and then actively looking for it.
            My point is that in order to see the form, the viewer has to change.  And the viewer perceives this change as a change in the image, interpreting it as something coming into it.
            This is an analogy for the spiritual life.  The Presence of God in our world is invisible to the casual, superficial observer.  It cannot even be deduced from a careful analysis of the empirical data.  In order to see it, we have to relax and be present, allowing a subtle shift in our perception.  Then the Presence may appear to emerge.  It is perceives as something that initially appears to be “coming,” even though it has been embedded/encoded in the world all along.
            Not everyone actually sees the form when they look at a Magic Eye image.  Some folks can’t do it.  For them, it remains a mystery testified to by those who have had the experience.  Seeing the form remains aspirational for them.  Or: they can conclude that the seers of the form must be lying, delusional, superstitious, or mentally ill.  Since they can’t see it, and reality is empirical and objectively verifiable, they can only conclude that the form isn’t real.  They might mock those who claim to see something otherwise invisible, and dismiss the whole Magic Eye thing as a scam.  
            Of course, this is the way many simply dismiss God and the spiritual life altogether.  If they can’t see it, it’s not there.
            But people need to be reminded that that there could be something real out there that we can’t perceive until something inside of us changes.  And when Christians say something like “Come, Lord Jesus,” they are not necessarily asking for something that is not here to arrive.  But they are asking for the ability to perceive something that is already here and always has been.
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