Monthly Archives: April 2017

109. Staying and Leaving (Juxtaposition 9)

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The difference in this photo is between the petals who are still holding on, and those which have chosen to let go. Falling is sometimes the way forward, if we can only see it, and summon up the courage to drop into unseen hands. Other times, we need to stand, and our overcoming happens by our firmness in not allowing ourselves to be moved. Seasons are everything in the wisdom of this. Just ask a tree.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

108. Nature and Civilization (Juxtaposition 8)

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The ivy is slow, but the glass and upvc is slower. Glass, I have read, is slowly sinking down, like raindrops caught within a sheet of ice. But it will be many decades before it is noticeably thicker at the bottom than at the top. Ivy creeps and sticks, and greens its way across the landscape.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

107. Life and Death (Juxtaposition 7)

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Wabi sabi, the Japanese call it when we see beauty in the ugly, or life within death – essentially beauty within imperfection. Put the two things together and they can often seem like two halves of a whole. Both are present, both are necessary. The death of a caterpillar is the birth of a butterfly, after all.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

106. Sharp and Soft (Juxtaposition 6)

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I often wonder if the beauty of a rose would be quite so beautiful, or seem so soft and serene, if it were not next to sharp and solid thorns, capable of tearing and wounding. The difference between the flower and its protectors is brought into even closer focus by their nearness to one another. Would a rose, by any smoother stem, smell as sweet?

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

105. Outside and Inside (Juxtaposition 5)

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Trapped inside by this illness, I have found my inner world far larger than I could ever have imagined. Sometimes though, stepping out into the world, even into our tiny back garden, the size of “outside” is overwhelming. The sky, particularly, which enables us to envisage freedom wherever we are, is mind-blowingly huge. Feeling now the same way about the vastness of creativity and universe of love and prayer inside of myself, there is some comfort in the smallness of the inside of my house, my bedroom (where I spend 99% of my time) and even of my body, in its reassuring constant confines of size and shape. We are creatures of cell and shell, in lots of ways, and need that boundary between inner and outer worlds.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

104. Hard and Soft (Juxtaposition 4)

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A small blue thing, as Suzanne Vega might sing, sits in my hand, stony against flesh. One is tappable solidity, the other pliable softness. But which is more fragile?

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

103. Light and Shadow (Juxtaposition 3)

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Light and its absence create a powerful striping across any subject. How different we look and sometimes feel in the brightness, as opposed to the dark. We long, don’t we, for the cool of shade when we are hot or blinded by the sun, and conversely, for the warmth and comfort of the sunlight, during dull grey days.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

102. Hard and Soft (Juxtaposition 2)

Grass, daffodils, concrete (juxtaposition)

The grass is greener on the other side when it is next to concrete. How much more alive are the thriving, viriditas, sap-filled spears, than the conveniently flat and dour manmade surface next to them! I love to walk barefoot on the grass, it makes me feel connected to the earth. Concrete feels harsh and either too hot or too cold. Surprisingly, left to their own devices, it would be the grass that would overthrow its oh too solid neighbour.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

101. Extrovert/Introvert (Juxtaposition 1)

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So for the next fortnight we move on to a new aspect of seeing. This is juxtaposition, where putting or finding two things next to one another highlights the difference and gives strength to both. These two muppets couldn’t be more different. Sat side by side, the meekness of Beaker and the energy of Animal become even more powerful. This could be a photo of myself and my husband, for although he is an introvert too, he has been known to play in death metal bands and frequent the odd mosh pit or two, whereas I am rather less adventurous! Fortunately the two of them seem to share a love of poetry.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

100. Empathy summary

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I hope you all had a splendid Easter!

We spent Lent looking at one imperative aspect of seeing, which is empathy. I don’t know about you, but I learnt a lot. In turning the tables and looking at an issue or characteristic from the other “side” with compassion as my watchword, I found that it is possible to understand how we all rationalise our own thought patterns and behaviours as morally correct, or at least, justifiable.

Sometimes the different way of thinking from our own has just come about as someone chose a path that branched off from ours somewhere along the line. Or they had an experience that changed their direction, or influenced their view of what is right or wrong. Or they found that they were motivated by something that I was not, or vice versa. Whatever we choose, whatever ethical lines we define ourselves by, we need to firmly believe either that we are the ones who are right, or that we are the ones playing the game well, or, if we are doing something we know is morally questionable, that we are powerless. In other words, we persuade ourselves that we are good, clever, or victims of the rules/culture.

Jesus’ words “They know not what they do,” are crucial. Most of the people who are seeking to feel at peace about feeling or doing something that is not wholesome, use various arguments to sustain their way of life. Most prevalent is, “if I weren’t doing this, someone else would be (and not as well or as kindly as I do)”. And, almost as often, “everyone is doing it, therefore it’s okay”. In some very real ways, we really don’t know that what we are doing has any hurtful repercussions.

One of the hardest things in writing these pieces was beginning with my own voice and not coming back to it after the section of empathy. To let the view that was different from my own have the last word was difficult, but I felt, necessary. To sandwich the other between my own opinion would have stolen its power. I needed to let that person’s voice stand unchallenged. This is maybe what real listening looks like, or holding space. We may not agree, but we can defend the right to be heard.

And then we ended with my looking at a few of my own traits with empathy. This was really helpful, and I’m glad I did it. I feel now that it will be easier to look candidly at my own character in prayer, and to balance that honesty with self-compassion.

So empathy is a hugely important way of seeing. If we cannot empathise with the other outside of ourselves, we will never really be able to contemplate in any worthwhile way.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

p.s. for a great illustration of empathy, which, like mine is fictional, but nevertheless powerful, do read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The section on Jane’s childhood is phenomenally empathetic, both towards her childhood self, and those who do her wrong.

text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 photo from Pixabay (back to mine from tomorrow I hope!)