Fluorescence

“Redlight” by Katrin Fridriks

In the Tibetan mountains I retired to my little cot every night, happy to soon commune with my Lord. But these sallow eyes and wan complexion in this hive of ten-thousand street lamps, only want to escape, sacrificing prayer for distant and pale dreams. And the screen projects blasphemies, spitting them onto my fallen face. Sex is sacred, love more so, but donning their hyperkinetic frock they come invading. Tickling, dazzling by flashy gymnastics in neon leotards. I am boxed into the one magic-markered CLOSE-MINDED for being bored of their routine. Their behind-the-curtain, make-up-less, off-the-clock lives are more wondrous, and real! But they’re the ones you don’t see or read about in reviews. You just know, as one looks into the eyes of a never before-never again passerby on the street, and the two share a mutual, brotherly nod.

©2011, Amaya Engleking

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12 comments

  1. Cheryl Ruffing · January 9

    I think the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do is get involved in the lives of others, but knowing that following Christ is not supposed to be a walk in the park, I understand why He challenges us to put ourselves out there. I have found that it needs to be an ongoing discernment process: there will be times when keeping to myself is what I’m called to do. I’d like to say that the solitary, contemplative times should prepare one for the social times, but I have a feeling that there are rhythms, and the social times can and should inform the solitary ones just as much as the reverse. I guess the key is being open to learning something from every encounter—be it with people, situations, books, thoughts, prayers—and applying the knowledge. Oh, and weaving itself throughout all of that is learning to recognize pride and cultivate humility. No walk in the park there.

    • Gospel Isosceles · January 9

      A time for every purpose under heaven. Yes. In traditional Chinese painting much of the journey – and beauty – is depicted by steep mountains and cliffs, stippled with sparse resting pavilions. And in the six years since writing this experience with a noisy Chinese city (actually known in China for being the most laid-back, by the way) I also agree with you that our contemplative moments are enhanced by our going-forth ones, and not just the other way around. But do I really need to be humbled before these invasive screens? To me, that would be losing my discernment altogether.

      • Cheryl Ruffing · January 9

        Well. Those screens. I watch very little television, and few movies. I do, however, find myself watching lots of music videos. I turn to Youtube for music: sometimes background; sometimes not. Now, many would call me crazy and allege that I’m choosing the worst of the worse, but I do it for a few reasons. First and foremost, my kids listen to this music, and I want to be involved in their lives. Second of all, if I ever hope to understand the culture around me, I have to be familiar with it. Third, there’s a lot to learn. Fourth, I generally find hope in these videos. Whether the musicians or producers know what they are creating or not, there is often transcendence there. Just the other day, I stumbled onto “High Hopes” by Kodaline. It’s a powerful video, and there is more to the story than what is presented on the screen. The videos of Florence and the Machine are disturbing but there is truth there. I don’t know if I’ve uncovered even a fraction of it yet. The band Kings of Leon fascinates me. Beneath the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, something much deeper exists. The other night, my husband, 18-year-old daughter, and I watched “Moulin Rouge” for the first time. Wow. It is a hell of thing. Yes, it seems to be about decadence and vice, but the story is really about redemption and how God created us for love. Even when we are told by society or people in our lives that we don’t deserve to be loved, we do, because we are created in the image and likeness of God. Ewan MacGregor’s character sees Nicole Kidman’s character as a person, not as an object for pleasure, and he loves her. For the first time in her life, she knows what it means to be loved, and that’s beautiful. What I’ve learned is that I can’t tell God how and when he can give me glimpses of grace; I just need to be open to seeing them, whenever they may show up.

        • Gospel Isosceles · January 9

          Firstly, “she knows what it means to be loved.” You’re right. That is beautiful. Praise God.
          You are talking about art. Music videos, film, etc, there is always the divine hand in works of creation to tell stories with themes of truth, redemption, love. Even if the divine is not given credit. I was mainly referring to the flashing bright, hard-to-ignore public screens and advertisements screaming to define what sex and love is, exposing their definition to all members of society, even (especially) the young, highly impressionable ones. Now Cheryl, if you can see the glimpse of grace in this real-life burlesque show, you are a master indeed 🙂

  2. Cheryl Ruffing · January 9

    I have a feeling you give me too much credit, Amaya. Let me just say that it has been a hard slog, fighting my pride and Pharisaical tendencies every step of the way. Yes, there is an enormous difference between art and propaganda, as Madeleine L’Engle so beautifully pointed out in “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art,” a book I cannot recommend highly enough.

    • Gospel Isosceles · January 9

      I know! That and ‘Irrational Season’ are incredible for soul-searchers. I usually give books away after I read them but ‘Walking on Water’ is one I revisit often. Our conversation here is timely because my atheist sister just recently accused me of judging her/others. I have come away from that accusation questioning my convictions and what it looks like to judge others. I may keep silent and relatively tolerant in encounters with others but inwardly seethe, “How can they not see the root of their own emptiness?!” It’s pride and Pharisaical, I recognize, just reaffirming how much I need God to fill me.

      • Cheryl Ruffing · January 9

        All I can say is that you’re years ahead of me. I spent decades alienating others with my self-righteous ways. One more book recommendation (you may have read it already): “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” by Flannery O’Connor. There are some of good examples in it of what can happen when we presume to think we know better than God.

        • Gospel Isosceles · January 9

          Actually I’ve read very little Flannery O’Connor, but particularly after your post on ‘The Ruff Draft’ in which you provided an excerpt about the general and his granddaughter’s graduation, along with your own experience of reading O’Connor, I am more than intrigued and look forward to her writing.

  3. I really love the idea, how it happens so frequently, as one looks into the eyes of a never before-never again passerby on the street, and the two share a mutual, brotherly nod.

  4. Darryl Walker Jr · January 14

    That was amazing! Good work on these pieces Amaya. And the art work selection is great as well. I love the last line about a “never before-never again passerby on the street, and the two share a mutual brotherly nod”.

    • Gospel Isosceles · January 16

      You know I appreciate this coming from you! And yeah, it’s always an enjoyable adventure discovering new art/artists while searching for the perfect fit. I was especially impressed by this artist, Katrin Fridriks, who does massive installations of this crazier-than-street/jazzy style. (Don’t know how else to describe it; I’m improvising here!)

      • Darryl Walker Jr · January 17

        Haha, I feel what you are saying. Fridriks’ work seems awesome!

        I am glad you are always searching for new art! That is awesome. I am coming around to it – I think there is a “school” of art that is growing on me called “abstract minimalism”.

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