This morning as I was doing breakfast dishes, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a falcon perched on my lawn holding on to some sort of small, feathery creature with it's talons. I looked closer and saw that it was a baby bird, struggling for it's life as the falcon held on to it with a deadly grip. As the little bird struggled, the falcon would reach down and peck at it every few seconds and then simply wait, as if telling the little bird to just relax and accept its fate. It was hard to watch. I wanted to run out and shoo the falcon away, but then realized that if I did, the baby bird would likely suffer a slow and painful death anyway from the wounds the falcon had already inflicted. This was the life cycle and I needed to allow it to play itself out. Trying to ignore the gruesome scene, I busied myself in the kitchen as the bird's struggling slowly stopped, and the falcon proceeded to enjoy her feast, tearing the little bird apart until there was nothing left on my lawn but a pile of scattered feathers.
I thought of how what I had witnessed in my backyard went against everything I've learned and become conditioned to as a nurse. In today's world, death is usually viewed as failure, regardless of the person's age or health condition. If someone dies, then something or someone failed- either the doctors, the medications, the patient's will, or even God. It's met with accusations and lawsuits, with the insistance that something more could or should have been done.
Death, for most of us, is no longer seen as a normal process and a stepping stone, but as a cankerous evil. Very few of us experience witnessing death on a close and personal level more than a few times throughout our lifetime. I can't help but wonder how this dettachment has affected us collectively. Has it made us less grateful? More demanding of God and the medical world? Is the assumption that a long life lies ahead what makes us so willing to disconnect from each other, thinking there will always be the luxury of "some other time"? I think of the pioneers crossing the midwestern planes and the likelihood they had of facing the possibility of death on an almost daily basis. Did they hug their children tighter than we do? Did they take more time to focus on the things that really matter? I can't help but wonder.
I posed a question to some photography friends on a private photography blog the other day and was grateful for the open and safe discussion that we had about it. I've posted the question below.
I’ve been stewing over something for the past several years and have never really had a group of people that I can discuss it with- people who I trust who appreciate art and photography, and who have the same value system that I have.
So here’s my question… how can someone respectfully photograph the bare human form in a day and age where society has so grossly perverted and over-sexualized the human body? I’m avoiding the word nudity because I think photographing the human form respectfully should never be for the sake of merely showing a naked body or to evoke a shock factor. But unfortunately, when we think of photographing the human form, that’s what most of us usually think of (understandably so). The rampant nature of pornography and the over sexualization of our culture has done quite the job of conditioning most people to either go after nudity like ravenous wolves or to completely shun it in all its forms.
In my Humanities classes at Rick’s College we studied history’s most famous and celebrated art pieces, many of which included the bare human form- like Michelangelo’s David. Our instructor told us that we should view these pieces of art not as scandal makers, but as representations of God’s ultimate masterpiece- the human body. He encouraged us to study these pieces respectfully and prayerfully and to open our minds to the beauty of the human form.
I discussed this topic with my husband, and while he agreed that there can be respectful artistic representations of the human body, he believes that it shouldn’t be displayed because of how warped so many people’s minds are in today's world. I suppose to me, that’s like singing… but only in your closet.
I would love to know your thoughts and insights on this.
As I posed this question, I thought of the changes my body has undergone during this pregnancy. The transformation of a woman's body to accomodate another life form within herself is truly an amazing thing. Pregnancy is the one human experience that gets us closer to God's creative process than any other- to create life! I thought how if there was one thing I want to remember from my pregnancies but have never documented, it would be these remarkable changes- the swelling of the belly, the widening of the hips in preparation to becoming a literal birth canal, the stretching of the skin, the breasts getting ready to become the sole source of nourishment for another human being. It's really all so remarkable and magnificent. In every way, child birth and the body's preparation for it fills the measure of the female creation, and I have been priveleged to have a front seat to it all- five times! What an incredible honor and miracle when we think of it.
And yet there's an air of shame surrounding the bare human form, especially in many Christian cultures, even when it's done tastefully and respectfully. Why is that so?
As I loaded my kids to drive them to school the other day, no one was being cooperative with seat belts. They were all fighting it along with every other thing I had tried to do for them that morning. My hips were killing me and I had had a terrible night's sleep. What the heck, I thought. The school is a whopping 2 miles away on back country roads, so I decided to pick my battles and bag seat belts for the drive to school.
...And the whole way I felt a nagging sense of guilt. "What if I get pulled over and the cop finds me with a carload of unbuckled kids?" "It's only 2 miles away, but don't they say that accidents usually happen close to home?" "What if a sinkhole opened up beneath my car like it did for that lady a year ago, and she died because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt?" (Okay, that last one didn't cross my mind at the time, but the story really did happen not too far from our house)
As I thought about it, I realized that most of the information we receive about how to raise our children is followed by ominous warning signs intended to induce mild panic about what will happen if we don't follow the advice. Parents are bombarded almost constantly by paranoia-inducing information. Not a day goes by, especially on morning news shows, when you don't hear something like "What your pediatrician might not be telling you about your child," or "How food dyes might be affecting your child's behavior," or "The things you might be doing to your child that could lead to Autism."
I thought about how nearly every decision I make for my children- from what they eat for lunch, to the type of plastic that's in their water bottle, to whether or not I choose to have them vaccinated- has paranoia-inducing "facts" to back it. Why is our society driven so heavily by paranoia- from "Big Brother" conspiracies to theories that antibiotics will bring about the demise of our society as we know it.
Has there ever been a more paranoid society in the history of the world?
On a separate note, my husband, along with most people from Owyhee County are the least paranoid people you'll ever meet. Actually, just a little paranoia every now and then might even do them a little good. I had to laugh (and freak out a little) yesterday when I looked out my back window and saw that Dennis had loaded Calista (age 2) on the back of our little four-wheeler with Lauren (age 4) driving! The four-wheeler is tiny, not even two feet off the ground, and barely tops 10mph at full throttle, but I couldn't get over what I was seeing. He stayed close by but let them at it, with the two of them squealing, having the time of their lives. The day before he had told me that he was excited that they had just lowered the age for a hunting permit, and that this summer, Camden (age 9) could take a hunter's safety course and shoot game this fall, after he's turned 10. ?!?!?!? Maybe I just need to have Dennis tune into more morning shows?