When I was growing up, a gallery near us on Madison Avenue had a painting in its window which was the work of Victor Vasarely. Vasarely, who generally painted large canvases of geometric design, liked optical illusions: three-dimensional effects, banded swirls that seemed to be moving, and color-blocking. He was brought to my mind by a speaker, Jeff Collins, at a Hospicare event this past week. He spoke about life seeming to him more "real" as he involved himself in Hospice, and sat beside those who faced death.
The painting I remember was color-blocked: blues and purples alternated with bright yellows in a checkerboard. Each square was solid, and relatively plain: the kind of painting a museum-goer might scoff at. It was the overall effect, however, that made it worth looking at: these little solid blocks of blue or butter, though to objective measurement a single hue, took on for the human viewer a shaded effect. Each was most vibrant at the edges, especially where in contrast. Each faded at the middle, looking almost white in the riot of color surrounding.
This speaker reminded me of this effect we human beings experience. We face it constantly: a new idea, contrasting an old one, is exciting and dominant. A tradition we keep so well we do it without thinking fades to white. A day with nothing on the schedule feels liberating after a long week's work; a week's stay in the hospital, with everything erased from the schedule, grows tiresome. We crave, and need, both these aspects of life: what is fresh and brings variety, as well as what we can count on and what makes us feel grounded and sure.
There are times, however, when our lives as a whole start to feel less colorful than they once were. Perhaps the boundaries we have drawn around ourselves don't include enough contrast. If you are looking for something new and different, try reaching out through one of the ministries of the church. Don't just attend a program; pray about people who are different from yourselves, and then get involved. Nothing decorates a home like the feeling of gratitude that you have a place to live. Nothing makes one happier at work than remembering what it feels like to not have a job. Don't get involved for yourself, I'm not saying that; but Jesus tells us that we were made for contrast. Love your enemies! Help the poor and needy in distress! If you are the rich man (Matthew 19), and you ask Jesus what you need to do to inherit eternal life, what does he say? Sell it all, and give the money to the poor, and then come, follow. Contrast. Color. Life.
The Hospicare worker says, "Life feels more real when I sit beside those who are dying." Vasarely tells me, "Colors are their most vibrant when they are next to their opposites." Jesus says, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first;" and, "the one who believes in me, even though they die, shall live." What, then, should we say? Where shall we find the richness of life?
Try something new, and good. Put yourself in an unfamiliar place. Sit beside the colors of another's life, and pray there... and you may find new color in your own.
In this colorful season, I am yours in Christ,