Surprising Images, Surprising Dreams


Susan wrote yesterday of a brother in kindergarten who got successive “F”s for drawing pictures that did not conform to the requirements, when in fact the teacher simply suffered from a diminished imagination that could not keep up with the young lad’s creativity. Al wrote yesterday about the special time he experiences upon first waking, before the eyes are fully open, and a person exists somewhere between subconsciousness and consciousness. At that moment, Al says, the really weird and interesting thoughts occur, which, if you can hold onto them, will provide deep wells for contemplation the rest of the day through.

I think of that rather charming advertisement (and I rarely think of advertisements as “charming”) in which Abraham Lincoln and a beaver are sitting at some guy’s breakfast table, both wearing a look of abandonment, with the caption reading, “Your dreams miss you.” The conscious mind, trained in the orderly ways of the world, wouldn’t conjure up such a peculiar gathering of characters in such an unlikely setting, but the unconscious mind, wild and free, has no such problem. The picture, of course, captures our attention in a way most advertising photos in their bland routine and rigidity do not.

Has anyone ever had the reaction I often have looking at the typical photos displayed in your average weekly local newspaper? Which is, could they have found a more boring way to capture this picture? You know what I mean — a couple of guys in suits, with ironed-on smiles, staring into the camera — that’s it. This, of course, is the “dignified” way to present people, but maybe we’d be better off with a little less of what we think of as dignity. “Candid” shots are always better, more interesting, simply because there is some hope of capturing expressions that haven’t been self-consciously rendered and actually reveal something real. But if we’re going to pose a picture, let’s encourage our photographers to enter that realm Al so enjoys. The guys in suits could be posed staring and pointing at something off in the distance, with excited looks on their faces, and maybe some kid could be standing in the background, holding a goose, wearing a tee shirt that clearly reads, “I’m having the best time of my life!” (You decide whether it’s the kid or the goose wearing the shirt.) And then after looking at this picture we’d really have something to wonder about.

So I am “Pastor” Jeff so I suppose I’m obliged here to bring in some sort of theological argument to under gird the rant of the previous paragraph. This is what I will offer: I don’t think Jesus ever bored people. He delighted people and he infuriated people but he never bored people. His stories are remembered precisely because they brought images together in surprising ways. The woman sweeping her house looking for a solitary lost gold coin who goes bananas celebrating with all her neighbors when she finally finds it. The lamp hidden under the bushel. The foreigner suspected of being a terrorist who stops to show kindness to the beaten up guy when the church guys don’t. The wedding feast with all the street people as guests of honor.

Of Jesus’ speech, Mark observes this: “He spoke as one with authority, and not like the scribes and the Pharisees.” A very, very loose paraphrasing of this verse might be this, “When Jesus spoke, he didn’t bore the living daylights out of his listeners, the way the Scribes and the Pharisees did.  Scribes were people whose job was to copy documents. It is not a job that values originality. They would have made good local newspaper photographers. Or bad ones, depending on your perspective.

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