Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Photoshop, Memories, and Real Life

When I went hiking on the Boardman River with my mom and two of my boys, I wasn't really expecting much from Mother Nature since the peak of the colors had passed. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when the gold and red sprang from unexpected places.

SmartPhone in hand, I hiked and took pictures with the second app I figured out (Angry Birds was the first one). When we got home, I uploaded them to iphoto and let Mac do its magic.  My mom murmured kind words about my pictures, then said with a hint of sadness, "That's even nicer than it was."

And you know what? She was right. The pictures made our hike look a lot cooler than it was.  I clicked buttons and slid bars until I made a picture that, to a large degree, was not true.  The only picture that accurately captured the event was one where Vincent did NOT want his picture taken. When you see his face - that's how it was.

I was on a trip once in which a father and daughter were among the group.  When I saw photos after the trip, the smiling, affectionate freeze frame put the lie to a trip that was full of tension, avoidance, and drama. I remember thinking, "Hey, at least they have their pictures. I hope it makes up for the trip."

I embrace a worldview that grounds itself in words more than images.  Jews eventually became know as People of the Book, and Christianity arose from the soil of language over pictures. The Ten Commandments make clear that God was not interested in His people trying to capture His reality or nature through images. The Bible  contains lots of beautiful poetic imagery and word pictures to describe God, but that's not the same thing as the actual image. When Jesus incarnated as the express image of God, even that was temporary, not permanent.

That command about images always seemed odd to me, but I'm starting to feel differently. Is it possible that the Bible (and by extension, God) stresses the importance of words because both the power and the frailty of images are greater than that of words? Sure, images move us - one of them is worth 1,000 words - but that great blessing can also be a great curse.

As much as I love how my pictures capture time well spent with my family, I will also remember that the day was not quite that sunny, and the colors not quite that bright, and the lake not quite so blue.... and wonder what else about my life I have not remembered truthfully, and why I sometimes feel the need to photoshop my memories in order to treasure them.

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