Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Perception and Shadowlands

Artist: Childe Hassam

Ever since I took my first philosophy class and spent some time studying epistemology, I have trained myself to sit loose to the idea that human perception necessarily gives us accurate information about reality:

Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.

-- Herman Melville

May we remember, then, to cultivate a willingness to embrace the mystery of what is.


  1. We know that Eastern Orthodoxy views icons as windows into the divine realm. But I believe religion, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or whatever religion - religion itself is an icon that provides a window into the divine realm. But, as St. Paul put it so aptly, "now we see through a glass darkly," or in another translation "in a mirror dimly." Melville definitely got it right in the quoted analogy.

  2. Yes, I agree. I've always loved that metaphor of the window. It opens our ordinary experience onto sacred reality. I think that is true not only of religion but of music as well. I suppose we can say this regarding all the arts.

    Hmmm. That's interesting. Religion as an art form....

  3. Yes, indeed! I see!
    Religion is an art form. Yet I have to admit I had never articulated it that way till you said it, though I've seen many ways in which religion is represented in art and have even attended and, in one case, led a workshop on art in religion. But, to think of religion itself as an art form, it's a new thought but one that rings true.


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