A Picture Held Us...

"A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably."
---- Ludwig Wittgenstein 'Philosophical Investigations'

This quote, given in a very different context from the one in which I am going to use it, definitely applies to me. I get pictures in my head. I imagine certain things happening, ideal images, snapshots of a life, and once they come into my mind I am very often driven to carry them out. The picture is repeated again and again everytime I revisit the context in which it was created.

Let me explain by example. A few weeks ago Kristina's brother visited. Among other things, he brough us English tea. Something Kristina and I both enjoy, but have discovered it is impossible to buy in Korea. Very shortly after we had this tea, I got a picture in my mind: There I was, relaxing in the lounge chair in our living room, wrapped in silence and a warm blanket. Resting on my lap was a very good book, and sitting next to me was a hot cup of tea. I would sip this tea as I read; peaceful, relaxing, tranquil, and so many of my favorite things wrapped into one. I call it: Scholar and his book. A good title really adds to the ego boosting effect of such things. It wasn't long before I had the perfect opportunity to make this snapshot a reality. And so I did. What I didn't think about was the incredibly strong effect caffeine has on me, that it was 11:00pm, and that I had to get up the next morning at 7:00. None of that ever crossed my mind. The image was to strong. Having found opportunity, I also found I had no choice but to take it. I was up very late that night... 3:30 I believe.

Recently, something similar has happened. We live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, and the view off of our balcony is not bad. At least, it fits perfectly into another picture I have of myself... Teacher, thinker, theologian, and family man Andrew stands at his balcony window, over looking the neon lights of a city that never sleeps. His wife sleeps fitfully in the next room, and Andrew ponders important things while sipping on scotch. This ones called "Sophisticated man, deep thoughts, late at night." I recently got a small 12 year old bottle of scotch, kind of as a gift (don't ask). Once again, it wasn't long before I had a chance to make this vision a reality. Tonight in fact. And these are my deep thoughts :)

But wait, it doesn't end here, there's more!!! I have been reading through Kings and Chronicles with Kristina, doing a bible study. We have just reached the end of the life of Hezekiah, and I have to wonder if he to was controlled by a picture. Recently saved from a fatal illness, as well as from the invasion of an Assyrian king, and most likely exile following suit of his norther brothers, King Hezekiah recieves an envoy from Babylon. After they depart, Isaiah comes to the king and gives him, what seems to me to be, very bad news:

"Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."
2 Kings 20:16-18

But Hezekiah does not see it the same way I do. Instead he replies: "The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good." And why? "For he thought, "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?" (2 Kings 20:19) It seems to me he had a picture, a strong desire that maybe he envisioned and maybe he didn't. But this picture allowed him to accept the future destruction of his country and enslavement of his descendants. All for peace and security in his own days.

What do we sacrifice for the pictures we chase? What dreams do we chase which are not worth chasing? The two dreams I mentioned we small, literal picture moments. They involved a certain degree of ego and arrogance, naturally I suppose, but as far as long term consequences of those pictures themselves (ignore the, perhaps larger, psychological issues which they may reveal and which I don't want to hear about thank you very much :) there is little to say. The same cannot be said for Hezekiah. I have to wonder if I do the same thing in other ways.

1 comment:

PakG1 said...

I think it's an all too common scenario. I know I myself have often sacrificed long-term good for short-term gain because the short-term gain was so much more tangible and tempting. It's a horrible thing when taken in the wrong direction; I think of people like Kenneth Lay of Enron fame and Bill Clinton.