As of last Friday, we have a new president. For the 31% of us, the registered voters, who cast their votes for him, that's good news. For the other 69%, perhaps not so much. But wherever you stand politically, we all want leaders who are moral and mature, and a culture that respects human rights and dignity. We wish this not only for America's political leaders and its political future, but for anyone in positions of influence anywhere in the world. We wish it as well for ourselves.
With this in mind, and with a renewed personal commitment to pray for our nation and our world, I offer the following prayer, knowing I am praying as much for myself as I am for our new president, as much for my friends and family members as I am for the new administration. I do so from a Christian perspective, because that is my faith.
Will you join me?
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Triune God who is like a Mother to us all,
We pray today for our nation, our new president, and our new administration. We pray for all leaders in America, and all leaders around the world, leaders of all nations and all cultures. We pray for the citizens of all nations, our friends and families, and those some would convince us are enemies. We pray for ourselves.
May we know compassion as the highest good; may we understand that, as God is most essentially love, so we must love.
May we recognize that this is not simply religious gloss, but the reality at the core of creation, and commit ourselves to embodying that love in our political lives and our private lives.
May we speak honest words without the intent to hurt. May we leave behind insults and name-calling. May we never bully; grant us strength to confront and counsel the bullies among us.
May we understand that our anger comes from fear, and take the time, thoughtfully and prayerfully, to identify and articulate those fears, letting reasonable responses and committed work for change replace our reactionary anger.
May we work for the good of everyone, recognizing that all people, whether American or not, whether like us or not, are created in God's image, are loved by God, are a part of God's plan for the world.
May we not lose sight of the world's suffering, and may we be courageous enough to acknowledge the role we play-- intentionally or unintentionally-- in contributing to that suffering.
May we not lose sight of creation's suffering, and may we be courageous enough to acknowledge the role we play-- intentionally or unintentionally-- in contributing to that suffering.
May we always strive to listen before speaking, pause before responding, breathe before posting to social media and emailing. May we always ask, "Is this coming from a place of fear or of love?" and, "Is this necessary? Is it helpful? Is it kind?"
May we follow the true Prince of Peace, not false princes of violence. May we embrace the certainty that only love casts out fear, only love casts out hate, only love builds bridges, only love tears down walls.
May we be open to change, to transformation, to redemption; may we humbly acknowledge that no matter how strong our opinions we may be wrong.
May we protect those who struggle to protect themselves; may we give voice to those who have no voice; and for the lonely, ostracized, weak and vulnerable, may we be the hands and feet, voice and touch of Jesus.
In short, we pray that the president and all world leaders, that Americans and the peoples of all nations, that all of us reflect the spirit of Christ. now and forever,
To document our lives, for example, to help us remember, to capture and hold on to life, quickly passing. Photography freezes moments and allows us, if only in part, to relive what has passed, to return and re-feel. Look back through you photo albums (or your social media posts)-- your past lives there.
We use photography to connect with and preserve beauty, to share that beauty with others, to experience wonder and awe. Recall how many times you've tried to capture a sunset, a flower, a waterfall... and how, when you return to the image, you still feel that sense of amazement.
We use photography to expose and combat injustice, to reveal what others try to hide, and by revealing, to help, to serve, to save. Think of the times your eyes have been opened, your heart torn, by images of suffering, and you've responded, "No, this must not happen!"
We use photography to enter into and better understand the experience of others, to learn about other peoples and cultures, others way of being in the world. We use photography to broaden who we are, to educate, to reform.
(Photography isn't alone here; all art can hold our history, expose evil, promote peace, teach, lead us somewhere new.)
But there's something else photography can do for us. Photography can also provide a means of meditation and reflection, a form of prayer, a key to imagination, a doorway into stillness, depth and meaning.
Photography can invite us to slow down and notice, to heighten awareness, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
In short, photography can be contemplation, a spiritual discipline motivated by the desire, not to produce something, but to be something, to be in process, open and present, open to be refreshed, open to insight.
Less is more, which sounds paradoxical, but the something "more" is something of value-- insight, for example, or meaning, or heartfelt peace.
Less leads to awareness, experience, not thought or analysis, but a direct knowing beneath and beyond words.
In meditation, we intentionally sit in silence, allowing the mind to clear, the input to cease, the chatter to stop. Doing so opens space, space in which to allow something more essential, more authentic to emerge, which may not be something we're even conscious of. It happens at a deeper level.
Meditative photography aims to do the same, to make space for our creativity to be released, without the filters and censor of the mind, without the interference of thought. As with other art forms, this can usher us into that space of flow, where time and place recede into the background and, instead, we are fully present in the moment, fully ourselves, fully engaged with our subject, with our feelings.
Reduction in photography means narrowing the focus, stripping away the nonessential, seeing only what leads, moves, calls to us.
It may mean clearing out space around you-- physical and mental-- simplifying, de-cluttering, and letting the lens be your eye.
It may mean moving in close so only a single object, color, texture, curve, shade, angle (or a combination of two or three of these) fills your vision.
Or it may mean backing off, taking in something broader and more complicated, encompassing a broader scape, but merging the elements into something more basic.
Meditative photography, like meditation, invites you to experience only what's needed.
From the mouths of men sweet blossoms can rain, or men can roar like lions spewing sharp tacks and shattered glass.
The mouths of men can sweeten, deepen, flower, empower, or the mouths of men can cheapen, weaken, dehumanize, demonize.
The mouths of men can erode, goad, corrode, or the mouths of men can open doors, restore, heal, reveal.*
*And yes, the mouths of women can do the same. This poem, however, was the end product of a poetry-writing exercise, in which the words men, mouths, blossoms and lions were to be used in the poem. I hear women whose voices are equally corrosive and equally redemptive, but in our current political climate, the poem, as written, seems most appropriate.