What’s in your frame?

I’m guessing most, all? of us have watched more films this year than past years.  The pandemic came at a time when just about any show ever made can be streamed into our homes.

I love how films can open up whole new worlds to us, but I’m also interested in how they circumscribe the world.  The camera is so powerful not just for what it shows, but for what it doesn’t show.  Rather than flood us with a constant field of peripheral vision, from which we must continually choose where to focus our attention, the camera focuses the attention for us.  Rather than show us the whole crowd, it shows us a small group within the crowd, or a particular expression on the face of one person within that group.    

The choices the film makes of what to show us and what not to show make the story we experience.  In films, we inhabit the world that takes place inside the frame. 

I’ve been thinking recently about how all this is analogous to our emotional field of experience, particularly regarding sorrows.  Our emotional frames weren’t built to handle all the peripheral heartache of the world we now have access to through news media.  We want to be informed, but there is a limit to our emotional capacity.  We can’t zoom in on every circumstance or get drawn into every situation of which we learn.

But some of these stories do call to us in ways others don’t.

So how much of the world’s sorrows get to enter our emotional frame?  Where do we focus the camera?  And what of it isn’t ours to bear, not our story to live within?  And what’s the relationship between the joy and goodness I seek to cultivate within the frame I can most control – my life and immediate relationships, home, and surroundings – and the wider frame of neighborhood, city, and world?

These are live questions for me right now, and maybe always will be.  They are intensified by yesterday’s murder of another Black man at the hands of a Columbus police officer.  My body is still shaking this morning. 

I believe our emotional frames are sacred.  When something enters them, however it may enter, it becomes part of our story.  That is a responsibility and holy calling.

This is perhaps not a very Christmas-y final blog of 2020, but there are plenty of parallels between our current world and the world into which Jesus was born.  I’m grateful that our frame will always include Mary’s child.  “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”