Here are some photos from my afternoon at the Tate Modern. No captions, no commentary, no nothing. (Phew!)
No commentary except about this first photo, that is, of a guard (I know they don’t call them “guards” any more….a concierge?) at the Tate. At the risk of seeming both overly forward and horribly middle-aged (not to mention American), I told her I thought her hair was a work of art and asked if I could take her picture. She was happy to oblige, and took my request very seriously in a way that I found touching.
I mean, really. What was God thinking about the day this flower came to be? Makes you wonder….Yesterday when my friend and I encountered this flower, which I can only assume is a kind of clematis although I can’t find the variety (anyone?), we imagined God sitting around bored, maybe a little high (on life, of course), picking up shards from a kaleidoscope somebody broke, breathing life into them and turning them into this very public and somehow ridiculously geometric helicopter of a reproductive system.
I define theology as the question What is God up to?
(I owe this definition to Richard A. Norris, 1930-2005, who was an amazing theologian and teacher and who, shockingly, is not listed in Wikipedia. If you look him up on the Amazon website, his books are rather hilariously intermingled with listings of books about Chuck Norris. I’m guessing he would take this as a fitting tribute to our insignificance as humans.)
What is God doing in creation? What is God doing in beauty? What is God up to when we suffer? When we procreate? When we die young, or live longer than it seems like we were ever intended to live? What is God up to in wartime? What the heck is God up to in the churches?
It begins with the questions. With paying attention to the world around us enough to suppose that God is up to something, something that at times delights, at times perplexes, at times infuriates. When we ask someone “What are you up to?” and mean it, we’re in relationship. The more curious we are about the answer, the better the relationship.
What are you up to? What do you think God is up to?
I mean, really. What more is there to say?
Except maybe this:
The other day my beloved was showing off his new ipad and shared a video from The New Yorker illustrating the September 7 story about Theo Jansen‘s beach creatures, or Strandbeests, wind-powered sculptures that walk on the beach. You all may be familiar with Jansen’s work, but maybe I haven’t gotten out much lately. Or, more likely, I’ve been coming across adventure and delight and beauty in other places. Here they’re all rolled into one. Take a look and enjoy!
Today I went to my current favorite latte shop with the best barrista ever. Sometimes he makes my drink with an ornate leaf in the foam on top. Sometimes a heart. Today, a heart and a leaf. (How do they do that??) All I could think of was: what extravagance!
Extravagance is a favorite word of mine, especially in these times when scarcity is creeping into so much of our daily conversation. I use the word all the time, so I decided I better look it up. (Mostly, I was wondering where “vagance” comes from.) Lo and behold, channeling Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, and “inconceivable” in The Princess Bride, an initial dictionary survey showed that the word doesn’t mean what I have always thought it means. The common definitions are all about spending too much money. Spending a few extra seconds and one’s own natural talent to create latte art, destined to be destroyed in as many seconds, would not be a good example of extravagance according to Webster or many others.
It’s a great word nonetheless, and I refuse to accept the limits of all those common definitions. I finally found a dictionary that gave me the etymology I sought and taught me something new: extra, outside of (and I extrapolate beyond) plus the present perfect of the latin vagari, wandering, or vague. Wandering beyond expectations. Who knew that extravagance was about vagary?