God is an Awesome Artist

October 22, 2009

A couple weeks ago, my sister sent me this email:

Hi Pauline. At a women’s retreat in June, we had to try to find words (preferably alliterative pairs) describing the Lord for each letter in the theme of the retreat. But I think it could be fun to try the entire alphabet. So, for example, L could be Loving Lord. But there are more subtle ones, based on scripture; I found quite a few in the Psalms. For example, Foe Finder (based on Ps. 21:8). So I thought, Pauline might enjoy finding phrases, whenever you feel like thinking them up or hunting them down in the Bible.

Of course she was right – I promptly started trying to think of alliterative pairs for each letter of the alphabet. I remember doing something similar at a Wednesday night Bible study over twenty years ago, when we were learning about the attributes of God. But that time we only tried to come up with one word for each letter of the alphabet, not two. It’s easy enough to say that God is Zealous. But I have yet to come up with a noun starting with Z that applies to God. (I’m not going to even try X.)

Some letters were pretty easy. I came up with multiple ideas for F, G, P, and S. Others are more challenging, especially as I’m trying to find a Bible passage to go with each one, preferably using some form of both words. For A, the closest I could come was Almighty Alpha-and-Omega, from Revelation 1:8 (“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”)

But since I’m trying to find words starting with letters of the English alphabet, using a word that is actually a letter of the Greek alphabet, and is part of a phrase rather than a single word, didn’t satisfy me. If I want to say that God has been from the beginning and will be to the “end” (not that eternity has an end, or a beginning, for that matter), I’d rather use a perfectly good word like Eternal. (Which is what I’m trying to use for E, but I’m still working on that one…)

I can say God is an Architect (Hebrews 11:10), or Author (Acts 3:15), but neither of those passages offers an adjective to pair with it, not even one that doesn’t start with A but has a synonym I could use that starts with A. One idea I came up with was Absolute Authority. While I’m sure I can’t find a verse that uses those words (I’ve tried), the idea is certainly there in many passages.

But in the end I decided the one I like best is Awesome Artist. I have at least one other that speaks of God’s creative power, but there the focus is on bringing everything into existence. With Artist, I think of the incredible beauty we see throughout the universe. From the microscopic size (have you ever thought of bacteria as beautiful?) to the astronomic (NASA has a great Astronomy Picture of the Day archive), creation is filled with colors, patterns, and an endless variety of designs that leave us gaping in awe.

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Movies: Chronos

June 12, 2009

If you don’t like art museums or concert halls, you probably won’t enjoy this movie. While it is categorized as a documentary, it is more of a music video – except that the music is to support the visual images rather than the other way around. There are no words, and no apparent message. As with much non-verbal art, it is left to the viewer to discern its meaning – or simply to enjoy the aesthetic experience.

It does start out very slowly, and I was afraid I was going to be rather bored. I like the views of the Grand Canyon (I imagine it must have been spectacular when originally showed on an IMAX screen) and the movement of clouds across the sky, but eventually you want to see some kind of action. I had mistakenly thought, from the subtitle, “A Visual and Musical Journey Through Time,” that there would be a progression from prehistory to the present. Scenes of Stonehenge reinforced this notion – but then suddenly I was viewing traffic in a modern city, its alternating rhythms enhanced by the time-lapse photography.

The juxtaposition of these two types of scenes was memorable, however. First there is the leisurely movement of light and dark across ancient, unmoving objects, so slow as to be nearly imperceptible at times. In contrast the frantic rush of cars from one block to the next, only to stop, start, stop, over and over, highlights the difference in the way the passing of a given increment of time is so different depending on the context.

Then there were unpeopled landscapes again, though this time the moving camera gave the scene more of a dynamic rather than static feel. The music continued its eerie patterns, neither the relaxing classical or “nature” music I had expected, nor developing in concert with the scenery to any apparent destination. I commented to my 9-year-old (who was initially bored but ended up watching the entire movie with me, occasionally trying to guess the locations depicted on the screen) that the music reminded me of the sort used in a movie to build up tension toward a climax. But it didn’t go anywhere, except on and one.

Finally we did begin to see more signs of human civilization, not in the presence of people but of buildings and artwork they had left behind. I particularly liked the scene where the tide rushes up (interesting to see the tide come in with time compressed in this way) toward the lonely monastery of Mont- Saint-Michel in Normandy (I had to look up this identification later in the bonus materials). The camera takes us inside, but it is as quiet and solitary as the ocean, and as it must have been for the monks who lived there in ages past.

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A satellite’s-eye view

April 30, 2009

I always enjoy looking through the “Best of …” pictures at National Geographic. Today it is “THE BEST PICTURES OF EARTH: Reader Picks of NASA Shots.” Check out the cool shapes and colors of number 2, a photo of sea and sand in the Bahamas. “Twin Blue Marbles” (number 5) is another beautiful sight of the colors and patterns of our pattern, though on a vastly different scale. I’ve seen photos of the earth from space before, but never two images that together show the entire globe.

My favorite, though, is number 8, “Agricultural Patterns.” Not only are the shades of green lovely and the geometric patterns among the squares different yet somehow balanced, it also is visual evidence of how geography and history shape our way of life. And I mean “shape” literally as well as metaphorically. The text below explains how the size and shape of farms reflect not only what kind of crops are grown but also how farmland is parceled out. Large or small, regular or haphazard, rectangular or wedge-shaped, these green polygons give a satellite’s-eye view of the different patterns of agriculture around the world.