Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013: The thoughtful part.

Here's the thoughtful part of our annual Christmas letter. Usually I try to do this strange meshing of the newsyness of our year and the philosophical types of thoughts that inevitably run through my head at this time of year, and I was too tired, because man, I stayed up until 4:30AM wrapping presents with my dear friend Josie, and that is too hard for my brain. So here's the thoughtful part of the letter, minus the newsy part. You can read the newsy part if you're lucky enough to be on my Christmas email list or actual mail list. :)

Christmas Letter 2013

Brandon got me a new smartphone for my birthday, and I'm still trying to decipher it. Understanding electronics these days is a bit like decoding the Rosetta stone. You hold a device in your hands and try to find something familiar in the icons and app buttons in front of you. Pretty soon you feel like a cryptographer in the wee candlelit hours of the night, experiencing tiny triumphs as you discover that the little triangle plays voice messages and the little clock reveals your recent calls.

This past year has been one immersed in imagery and symbolism for me as my photography business, Slow Lane Images, has decided to keep me very busy. For one who has, since a young age, been very used to communicating with words in print, it is fascinating to me to work instead almost entirely in pictures. Last year, I stayed up until the wee hours of the night writing in my blog, and this year, it was endless clicking and zooming in on Photoshop documents that created the blue late night glow from my windows.

I can understand a bit of what the software developers must experience as they develop their new language of pictographs. For them, a series of sentences must be distilled into one simple shape. In portraits, the placement of a hand can imply great love or subtle tension, and I must be careful to decide what each image wants to say. It is strange to put so much thought and time into something that represents 1/320th of a second, but I have come to love this challenge to attempt to accurately represent so much within the confines of a simple rectangle.

There is, however an uneasiness that is ever present in working in this way. It is easy to begin to see everything as simply packaged and to forget the depth of meaning that brought us to this place. A scroll past a beautiful photograph, a +1 or "like," and soon it is forgotten. A simple click of a picture calls my friend, and I don't even have to know her phone number. Here is where it seems very important to be countercultural. Instead of a scroll through Facebook, how about a conversation with my husband? Instead of a Youtube documentary, how about some rich Wendell Berry poetry? These advances are earth shattering. They are wonderful and fearful all at the same time. We won't need book burnings like in Fahrenheit 451, no. We have the internet. I say these things mostly to myself, but also out loud too, because I think they are important to remember.

And now, at Christmas time, I want to remember that baby Jesus is more than a symbol. He is not just the cute and roly-poly Little People toy in our nativity set, not a myth created to represent purity and redemption. I want to remember that Jesus is the small child, but also that he is also the Teacher, the Friend, and Savior to whom, in spite of all my doubts, I cry out directly to in my darkest times. He is more than an icon, and He loves with a love that is wider than I can understand or portray. This…to remember the mystery and wonder behind all the things that have become maybe just a little too simple…to remember to cherish real conversation and complex texts and the story behind a work of art. This is my challenge for the year ahead.