Have you heard about the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit in San Francisco? This west coast premiere of a show seen by over 2 million in Paris, is billed as an “immersive” experience because viewers wander through 300,000 cubic feet of animations, and 60,600 frames of video enhanced by 90,000,000 pixels of light, radically enhancing the details of Van Gogh’s creations. The website goes on to promise that the astonishing scale and breathtaking creativity of the exhibit will allow one to “experience the organic landscapes of Van Gogh’s imagination, and journey through his brilliance and madness.”
I wonder what Van Gogh would think? Does the actual paint and brush stroke no longer matter. Exactly whose madness will we be journeying through? Isn’t art best interpreted from the inside out, not the outside in? Our technology often works from the assumption that understanding and awareness, even meaning, comes at us, rather than emerges from within us. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to see this exhibit. I have never experienced 90 million pixels all at once. But I also believe that beauty, inspiration and meaning are spiritual experiences which come from within even if catalyzed from without. If I can’t perceive beauty, no amount of technological bombardment will save me. Perhaps some self-reflection is in order.
I know one thing for sure. We have all had our own immersion experiences this year. The “art” in our stories of faith has come alive in new ways, not because the stories have been enhanced but because we have been immersed in some of the struggles these stories were grounded in. There is the world, but there is also our perception of the world. And our perception has changed because of what arrived at our doorstep this year.
Being in lockdown has allowed us a resonance with the stories of fearful disciples locking their doors to deal with threats of their own. Immersing ourselves in the stories of racial injustice is changing the way we see the narrative of our country and helping us understand the disciples struggle with the empire of Rome. Watching our plans go all to hell, has helped us feel invited into the death and resurrection narratives. This last year has immersed us in our humanity and helped us understand our belief in a God who chose to be immersed in the human struggle.
I like to think that even though, year after year, we repeat our stories and traditions, they have a way of becoming new. This is because as we change, our perception changes. So, I invite you to journey with me and your brothers and sisters through a “brand new” Holy Week. No, we have not pixilated the stories to wow you. Rather, after the year we have been immersed in, our familiar stories will seem like all new episodes, not because the stories have been changed, but because you have.
On behalf of the staff and vestry, I wish you a truly holy week and a joyous Easter!
St. John's Episcopal Church, Oakland
1707 Gouldin Road
Oakland, CA 94611
Sunday 7:45 am
Sunday 10:00 am (Livestreaming available)