Knowledge is perspectival.
Whatever is said or written is filtered through an operative lens of the speaker or writer. Contrary to any claim of “absolute” truth, all that has been said and written is but conditioned and limited.
“From Our Perspective” is a humble admission of our limitation at the outset, even when we occasionally express ourselves in “radical” terms.
We have selected this cropped picture of a pine forest, from which we may consider a few ideas:
- God is God and only God is God. We, on the other hand, are mere creatures on earth. The terra (earth) represents where we are, our rootedness and our conditionality in space and time, the very reality of the socio-cultural background from which we came, our education, our experience, our relationships.
- From that corner of the terra on which we stand, we appreciate our occupation of an infinitely narrow strip of space and time as mere tenants of the Cosmic Owner. We stand before the Creator-God, as every human person does, regardless of adamant denial or explicit acknowledgement.
- In this earthly life, our vision is always perspectival, enabled but at the same time regulated by our operative lenses. In humility, it seems prudent to admit that even if we seem to know some small “truths” in relation to the Truth, we make many mistakes as well in our reading and comprehending things, events and people around us.
- For we always see things in relative clarity. While some trees in the picture appear very clear to us in minute details, others are shrouded in varying degrees of darkness.
- Darkness and light in the picture suggest that there will always be darkness and light in our earthly existence. What is encouraging is that in the midst of semi-darkness and relative “unseeing”, light prevails that enables sight and offers illumination. It teaches us in times of success and brilliance ever to remain sober and, in the depth of desolation and darkness never to despair.
- That light comes from “above”, illuminating and inspiring the light that is already in us from the dawn of creation, for the Creator had made us in His image. Clarity of vision depends on nearness to the source of light. So the trees appear resplendent in details where the light shines directly on them.
- Which of courses teaches all Christians the importance of turning to Christ the light, to be illumined by the Light. Prayer and discernment are indispensable in our life work. Theology, we have all come to learn, is best done on our knees.
- Finally, this picture brings to mind the danger of getting puffed up over relative clarity. As one perceives clarity and renders account for individual trees, even adamantly insisting on perceived details, one does well to be ever vigilant of the danger in tree-counting, which cannot see the wood for the trees. Arguably the most germane of our time, Pope Francis is urging the whole faith community to be mindful of the larger picture and to take to heart what Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels is all about. From first to last, Jesus is about the kingdom of God. To manifest that kingdom, he preaches a steadfast fidelity to God and lives that fidelity in mercy and love, compassion and forgiveness. From one mountain where he preaches the Sermon on the Mount, to the other mountain where he freely makes the ultimate sacrifice of his life for the salvation of the world, he preaches and lives to the full the evangelical values of God’s rule. He has shown by words, matched to the hilt by deeds to the very end, that those evangelical values are achievable. Affirming all that Jesus stood for – his teachings and his acting, his life works – God raised him up on the third day. So God has begun the process of raising the dead, in favour of all who die “in Christ” by imitating his way, his truth, his life. Perceiving the depth of this truth, instead of insisting on Jesus as being first and foremost about doctrines and laws, Pope Francis follows closely the pastoral blueprints which the Gospels say Jesus has set up by example for the Church he left behind. That is, to always put the human person before the law. To miss that larger picture – a picture after the very heart of the God of Jesus Christ – is to stay vehement in tree-counting.