Friday, November 14, 2008

Compelled to Capture Beauty

Though the cold is apparently here in Tennessee to stay, we enjoyed sunny days in the mid-70s well into November. Anxious to enjoy the sunshine and warmth while they lasted, I took Elijah for several late afternoon walks to soak up the last precious minutes of daylight.
On one such walk, I was only a couple of blocks from our house when I wished I had my camera. The sun hung low in the sky, and the way it lit the changing leaves on the trees was striking. The light was just exquisite; oranges and yellows and reds looked nearly ablaze against the cool and cloudless sky.

I wanted to capture the beauty of the light, but even as I debated turning back for my camera, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to photograph what I saw. As we continued walking, I pondered my frustration in trying to capture beauty with a camera or with words. I am captivated by what I see and experience, and I long to savor those moments, to preserve them for others, to share the beauty. Instead I wind up dismayed at the inadequacy of my sentences and my photography skills, both technical and artistic.

Why this urge to capture, share, preserve? Why not just enjoy myself? I think C.S. Lewis said it best (emphasis mine):

The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . .

...The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

(from “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms,” in Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958], pp. 90-98).

The apostle John sensed this compelling urge to praise, to share; in 1 John he began by explaining one of his reasons for writing: “We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:4). As my NIV Study Bible notes, "John’s joy in the Lord could not be complete unless his readers shared the true knowledge of the Christ.”

And so, although I find that words fail me, although I struggle to compose a beautiful shot or manipulate my camera's settings effectively, I keep trying to capture beauty. I am compelled to share, in some small way, what I have seen and loved; my hope is that you'll see it and be captivated, too, by the Source of all beauty.

(photos taken the next day, when I grabbed my camera and tried to capture that late-afternoon light)


Anonymous said...

That top picture looks like the perfect place to go for a walk! I wish I had a place like that near me. William and I take walks all the time. (Well...we did before it started to get cold and rainy.)

And I really like that C.S. Lewis quote. I hadn't heard that before.

Zoanna said...

So now your joy from having read that wonderful quote is being completed by sharing it with others, and --if you're like me--feel it's fully completed when someone actually comments:0. I sometimes think if God were to add one more writer to the Bible and asked my opinion, I'd vote for Lewis.

As for your artistry in the photos, the top one makes me feel as if I'm there (kind of envious except that I have equal beauty in my back yard) and the third photo has terrific perspective and contrast. Kudoes to both your writing and your photog skills.

Anonymous said...

I love that C.S. Lewis quote. I remember the lightbulb the first time I read it. So true.

BTW, I love the last picture.

Bethany said...

You did a great job!!! I especially like the last two photos. They are all great but I like how you composed those and the light in them.