Secrets hidden in plain sight: accounts to treasure in the heart


If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.  Marc Chagall, who created the stained glass window at the Chagall Museum in Nice.

There’s counting and there is counting. There’s bean counting, and there is what counts as “ourstory”.

In an interview with UC Observer, on his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer has this to say:

I once worked with a group of Episcopal churches in Texas. They were mostly small, rural churches, and collectively they felt like they were dying. Their budgets and membership had fallen off. I listened for a while, and then I said, “You know, it’s interesting to me that the only books you’re keeping have to do with dollars and numbers and members. Can you imagine another kind of book that has to do with the resourcefulness of the people in your congregations, the gifts they have to offer, the needs of the communities they serve in, and how those gifts and those needs might intersect?” I said, “You could actually do an inventory of that.”

There are accounts of measurable items, and there are accounts of wonder. The former are required reading for our “managers” and are lodged in safe places. Jobs, futures and political gain are staked by these measures which are often massaged into a healthy glow. Where is that other kind of book kept, as spoken of by Parker Palmer?

They are kept in the hearts of people. Luke rounds the story of the Annunciation with the beautiful expression, “and Mary treasured these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Things treasured in hearts are full of wonder, love and heart-felt story. Such stores are never emptying and never exhausted. They sustain communities and help them to thrive.

The accounts we are asked to keep of pounds, numbers and members are heartless and don’t change a thing. That is book-keeping for managers and survival. There is a different book-keeping and accountancy which takes account of gifts and needs, memories and longings. These are the accounts that are worth having. These are the accounts which give fresh heart to communities and churches. Our leaders need to treasure them in their hearts. They are “secrets hidden in plain sight”.

The Bigger Picture

Photo of Kilham “tunnel” with permission.
David Hockney certainly provides the Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts. Increasingly he has rejected the viewfinder of the camera. The viewfinder of his most recent work is his own eyes and the imagination of his mind’s eye.

What Hockney sees is amazing the rest of us who haven’t practiced the art of seeing. The colours he sees in a field, a tree trunk or a forest floor are not far-fetched but are already hinted at in the subject. Many of the subjects are from his own homeland of East Yorkshire, including “the tunnel” near Kilham. The tunnel is an ordinary farm track with trees, hedgerow and tractor track, with the tunnel being formed by the trees that overarch the track.

It is a track which most of would take for granted, which we would pass by without noticing it. But Hockney treats us to his own views which he lays out on canvases that fill the room. Each view is different. He steps to one side and then another to give himself yet another point of view. He steps forward and he steps backwards. He sees it in the morning light and the evening light, when wet and when dry, in spring through to winter. He sees it in relaxed mood and when stressed and tired. There is the one scene, but so many views. There is one pair of eyes, but so many perspectives.  There is the partiality of personal insight but still such wonder. Even Hockney “only sees dimly”, because that is the human condition (1 Cor 13).

There is only so much that can go into one exhibition room. The exhibition is a sell out, even though it is open till midnight on some evenings. The rooms are crowded with people who have come to see. We are given a bigger picture which we see with our own eyes. Excitedly, many take the time to try to share what they see but it is each to their own. There is the one scene, and through one pair of eyes so many views. There is one room and so many pairs of eyes, each drawing their own conclusions.

Realising the many perspectives gives us the bigger picture. Is this the prescription that helps us see better? It is, so long as we can reconcile our views. In any room full of people there is a whole variety of views. But no bigger picture emerges if those views can’t be reconciled to each other. If our views are diametrically opposed to each other we become uncomfortable and we don’t know where to look.