It struck me today that 2 year olds are pretty awful at self portraits. To put it plainly, they cannot actually do them. They cannot even hold the marker. They have no idea where to put the eyes. They would rather draw on their own face than try to figure out what you mean by drawing it on a separate piece of paper. This was the deep thought I had while teaching art class this morning.
Later, after snapping a few late afternoon photos of my sweet son, I was struck again by how much an image can convey... that is not actually truthful. The backstory of what was happening when the picture took place is a far cry from what I see when I look at the portrait of him.
Self portraits as an exercise in self-reflection... and taking pictures as an exercise in seeing the world around you. How to do these things without turning into a nauseating narcissist or a false image-bearer?
I am an avid seeker of exercises that enhance creativity, or that simply help us see ourselves accurately and the world around us with greater clarity. But I want the result to be truthful, and if we are honest, that is not the way of the image world we live and breathe in and out, in and out, like air that we no longer think about.
And then I thought of Augustine.
Now there is self-reflector if ever there was one. The man could look inward and pick himself apart psychologically, morally, relationally, spiritually, with a depth and breadth few rival even in today's memoir soaked culture. But he didn't do it alone. Every page, every thought has two people on it, himself and God. And there is no true self apart from that.
Earlier today I read a line from the father of the famous martyr, John Stam, talking about the model he and his wife used for parenting their children. "We sought grace to live consistently," he said, "You are so often in your own way when you undertake to rear children." That is the whole of it with everything I think. We are so often in our own way and we need Grace to move out of ourselves, to see things in their proper light, to understand not only ourselves but everyone else too, to be truthful about the world and it's realities.
Even in self-portraits, even in something as simple as a photography exercise. There is no truth apart from Him. Next week, I'm bringing Augustine to the 2 year olds.