Friday, 4 April 2008

Rock and Revelation

I seem to have been involved quite a lot with images this week. My new Dell came with Photoshop Elements on it and I have been playing with that, and briefly we had a glimpse of summer yesterday, which always makes me think of taking photographs. The temperature rose 10º to a magnificent 17º yesterday before plummeting back down to 8º today. Groan!

I have also been busy finishing the last of my PowerPoint sets with accompanying handouts for my courses. So I spent many hours browsing the web for suitable images and importing them, or in some cases, making my own. I have a section on volcanic and earthquake hazards to cover with my geography students and there’s some really good imagery of squashed buildings and buried towns for them to gawp at. A key case study is Montserrat in the Caribbean where the southern half of the island has been an exclusion zone for 10 years due to the risk of pyroclastic flows. For the uninitiated: they are high-temperature aerosols of molten rock droplets travelling at up to 100 miles an hour that kill you with external and (shudder) internal burns. Anyway I couldn’t resist a little bit of Photoshop-ing to brighten things up and keep the children awake.

I am also down to preach this Sunday morning on Revelation chapter 2; the letter to the church in Ephesus. And anyone preaching on Revelation has to come to terms with the imagery. The odd thing about this: it is imagery that you really shouldn’t try and imagine. To paraphrase a wise commentator, it is symbolic rather than descriptive. The illustration they used, which I thought was very helpful, is the symbol of the skull and cross bones, which (unless we are sailing the Caribbean) is normally seen on bottles of weedkiller and disinfectant. It does not signify that there is a skeleton inside and to have a stubborn realism that thought there was one would be utterly silly. Instead, it refers to something more abstract, and in fact, impossible to visualise: the danger of death. The point is that the imagery in Revelation is of a similar sort. The last thing that you ought to try and do is actually think of what is mentioned in pictorial terms; instead you need always to ask ‘what does this signify?’ I suspect this is linked with that specific mention that Revelation is a book to be read aloud and heard: there are blessings promised for the hearers.

But this raises a question. We seem to be shifting from a verbal/oral culture to a one in which the visual seems to reign supreme. Will one result of this be a greater difficulty with the symbolic language? Oddly enough, what reassures me is the genre of rock videos, about which I know almost nothing. The glimpses I have seen though suggest that here, at least, the symbolic is alive and well. Revelation as rock video? Hmm, there’s a thought.

Have a good week.