Father Mark, Reflections

Zooming Isn’t What You Think It Is

I’ve been into photography since the late 70’s, only getting back into the hobby recently.  One of the tools of the trade that makes the hobby easier is a zoom lens (not the internet social media tool).  

Photography, like most other things, mirrors life—always requiring decisions.   What angle do I choose to look through and use?  Should I through a telephoto lens to make the subject larger, eliminating the surroundings or should I get a wide angle to be able to take in the whole picture?   Sometimes I feel like Tevya from The Fiddler on the Roof:  “On the one hand… on the other hand.”  Life seems to be a polarity of opposite tensions much of the time.   Sometimes, since digital cameras are cheap to use, not having to pay for the cost of film like I used to, I take both a wide and a close up telephoto shot just so that I have both views. 

Jesus did much the same.  On a mountain, he would do two different activities:  he would pray and he would look out over the landscape or the city of Jerusalem.   He focused on both the inner life up close and the wide angle of how he would bring that inner life into the larger world.  Both the wide angle and the telephoto view bring necessary perspectives.  Without both we lack the whole picture. 

When I am alone pondering a course of action, or even with a group, using a telephoto lens to get up close to see what needs to be initiated or solved is necessary to put everything in motion.   This is usually the easy part.  What is more difficult and requires more patience, is to zoom to the wide angle view of things to see how the intended act might create various positive and negative outcomes in the environment at large.  This keeps us from making those “knee-jerk” reactions which most of the time prove to be disastrous.   Taking the time to get the wider and more long range perspective conflicts with our need for instant gratification which is endemic in our culture.   One doesn’t need to look far to see the maladies and suffering created due to instant gratification.   Instant gratification and its underlying anxiety reveals a lack of mental and spiritual development.  I sometimes struggle with it, especially when I am under stress when I seek to sublimate the stress by seeking gratification elsewhere that will not solve the problem.   This is one reason I don’t eat donuts anymore.  There are as many false ways to assuage anxiety as there are people.  We all have our ways of substituting alternatives for instant gratification to decrease anxiety. 

Of course, there’s always the mountain offering us the space for a more telephoto look at our distress, allowing us to sit with our suffering and to invite God into it, seeking healing and direction instead of running down the mountain to seek the next diversion to divert our attention from what is really going on. 

Coping with COVID requires both the wide angle and telephoto zoom approach.   Looking up close to spiritually assess our inner life while using the wide angle lens to negotiate how our decisions of how we live with this unpleasantness helps us to better maintain a rhythm in our home life and the limited way we interact with the community. 

It’s no surprise that depression and anxiety mental health stats are rising and if we’re affected by the same it’s nothing to be ashamed of.   It has nothing to do with a lack of toughness or independence.  It does have a lot to do with loss and the grief therein.   I have noticed a significant drop in the amount of humor I observe and the laughter I hear.   I once had a client in therapy who had high blood pressure.  She brought their blood pressure monitor to sessions and we attempted various approaches.  For the client, the best intervention was laughter.   We tried watching humorous scenes, funny stories and other things which lowered her blood pressure. 

I notice that in my own life, when my spiritual life is in balance, I tend to have a more playful way about me and I laugh more—not an anxious laugh but a belly laugh.  I believe this is because that when I am spiritually centered, that I my fear or whatever else is bothering me dissolves. I John: “Perfect love casts out fear.”   It takes a much greater effort and intention to focus on God now in the midst of COVID-19 and all the political turmoil that comes mostly from the lack of seeing the bigger picture of the wide angle lens.   My father and my uncle taught me to look at the wider picture.   I learned to value the bigger picture when learning systems theory in grad school.   Most of all, I have learned that Jesus was a natural at zooming in and out, integrating the inner Spiritual Kingdom with the outer way in the world.   

Take an up close view:  what do you need most now in the center of your being?   Then find ways to manifest this and to then zoom to the wide angle to see how the Spirit creates your vision to see what is really happening in the bigger picture in the environment around you.  Allow the Holy Spirit to help you blend both. 

Jesus offers us a better way than knee jerk, impulsive living as he is the one who can still the waters in our souls–offering us a full frame life.


Fr. Mark