18 May 2020
A Moment to Reflect- 18
Last week I mused a lot about ‘stillness,’ suggesting it is the state of being in which we are most likely to encounter the presence of God. The nature of the photographs that I used might have given the impression that we can only find such stillness in solitary experiences but that is not the case. In fact, the most powerful experiences of ‘being still’ are probably those we share with other human beings. This is because we are essentially social beings who need one another. And this is why ‘social-distancing’ is such an unfortunate phrase. For the moment we do have to be physically distant from one another: but that has simply revealed to us how much we need and crave social nearness.
So, the next few posts will not be pictures of lonely landscapes: they will be portraits of people I have met around the world. Each face tells its own story. (I won’t necessarily repeat the story—I will leave you to ponder for yourself what it might be.)
Every human face tells its own unique story. This is why for me the faces of older people are often the most interesting— they have so many more stories etched into them.
But I begin with a group picture of some villagers in the Amazonian Beni region of Bolivia. Their lifestyle was simple and poor, but their welcoming hospitality was sincere and their joy quite infectious. That particular village demonstrated to me what real human community is meant to be like and it reminded me of these words from Henri Nouwen.
“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.
That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: ‘I make God visible.’ But others who see us together can say: ‘They make God visible.’ Community is where humility and glory touch.”
― Henri Nouwen