And so another lockdown begins. How many of us feel like the man in the picture? Alone, in a huge space. All around is dark and black and frankly vast. There is no detail or boundary in the blackness. The image is eye-catching in its starkness.
There is light.
The man sits on a bench, in a posture of prayer or reflection. He could be anywhere, but for me it was reminiscent of a huge cathedral. And the light streams in beside and upon him.
As I write this, one of my favourite songs is playing – “How can I keep from Singing?” (this version by Aled Jones & Dame Judi Dench). Musically my favourite version is by Enya. (For the history of the song see here). I was asked to sing this at the funeral of a dear parishioner, and for me this song speaks of hope and light in darkness. The simple tune soars with haunting melody. The sun sets behind the trees as I look out from my study window. The sky is painted with pinks, greys, blues and golds. Darkness beckons – but golden light still falls in places. And I know that the sun will rise again tomorrow, bringing new hope and life.
For me, in places of dark and challenge, to stop and to see what light and possibility there may be is what stops any sense of being overwhelmed, reduces stress, and stops the anxiety which eats away at inner peace.
Seeing the picture above, my first impression was of the blackness and solitude. The loneliness. Perhaps sadness.
But as I looked more, I saw something different. I saw prayer. I saw hope. I saw comfort – the man was on a bench, not the floor, not standing awkwardly. His posture is more of thought and reflection than any despair.
And the light streaming in lit the space ahead of him. It helped him see what was around him, even if I could not. Was he alone? Or was this a time of peace and solitude and time to be with God and himself, free of expectation and demand? That’s the thing about images – they are as much about the viewer as the thing or person depicted. We always bring our own perspective and assumptions to everything we see.
This third lockdown was entirely predictable. But it comes at a time of year that is never the easiest, when spirits are often low. But perhaps if we could change our perspective, we might change our thinking. And in turn we might see that there is more hope and light than at first there seemed.
I find the third verse of the song above speaks especially to me at present. And so I offer these words to you. May they bring comfort and peace and light to you also.
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?