Filtering Reality

There’s a corner in my neighborhood that I walk or run past several times a week. I take photographs there at least once a month as flowers, trees, and clouds change the view. It is always the same man-made pond and same little gazebo. And there is a sign, always out of frame, telling me that it is still private property so I never venture past the fence. Instead I stand on the sidewalk, catching a breath after the uphill or debating whether to add another mile or turn toward home. And I look to this little corner that is mine but not mine.

Sometimes we see what we want and other times we see what we need. At that corner I need to see something beautiful, something to inspire me to see beauty when I get back home and look into the mirror. There are days when the world has too much darkness and that corner, my not-mine corner, offers a light to see.


Recently a friend was explaining to me about how cameras filter reality. Amidst the technical jargon I managed to almost understand it. The core seemed to be that there is too much data available for the machine to process as a whole, so it has to be broken into different segments that are then accessible for the editor later put back together into film. How all of that works, I totally did not get that part. What I did get was the idea of not being able to see everything at once. And instead we need repetition, diverse angles, and lots of time to see the whole.


In C.S. Lewis’s “Meditation in a Tool Shed”, the writer describes a sunbeam. Where others might have just seen light, he saw part of the universe. I wonder how many sunbeams he looked at before he saw that reality.

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

– C.S. Lewis, “Meditation in a Tool Shed”

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