The importance of looking

Published: October 10, 2014

neil_heavisides_acting_deanWalking into the cathedral every day is something I try not to take for granted.  And as the “Crucible 2” exhibition is still with us, each day is an opportunity to spend longer in front of particular sculptures.  But sadly, like so many of our visitors, I don’t take enough time to look.

“Looking” is an active word.  It requires attention.  It requires time.  It requires a willingness to really stop and see.  Today there were students from Bristol with their cameras at the ready, and I couldn’t help speaking with them about the importance of looking.  (The preacher is always preaching to him or herself!)  Every piece of sculpture invites us to look properly, and every sculpture is full of ambiguities.  There is not one way of looking.  Each of us perceives reality in our own particular way.

The exhibition reminds us of the vital importance of imagination in all our thinking and seeing and smelling and touching and tasting and hearing.  The Shakespearean scholar, David Horowitz, reminds us that “it is the shaping imagination, art, which produces harmonies, music, grace and nobility, human civilization itself.”  We are reminded too that simply to be is to be vulnerable.  As the American Christian, Norman Brown, once said, “the defence mechanism, the character armour, is to protect from life.  Frailty alone is human; a broken, a ground-up (contrite) heart.”  It is our very broken-ness which enables us to respond to the broken-ness of others.  The sculpture of the Outraged Christ hints at a broken-ness of infinite power.  The resurrection has begun.

The Revd Canon Neil Heavisides, Precentor, Gloucester Cathedral

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