Today I watched a movie called “Now you see me” about magicians performing televised heists but with an ulterior motive behind them. In it there’s a phrase and idea that’s repeated quite a lot that I’d like to write about today.
“The closer you look the less you see.”
In the film, the idea behind this was that magic is all about misdirection and slight of hand. If you’re looking closely at what the magician has planned for you to be looking at, you miss the bigger picture of what’s actually happening. For example, in one instance a magician got his trick wrong on purpose so he could steal someone’s wallet.
What I related this to was what I see a lot in my church and actually just in general when it comes to religion. For those of you who are reading who don’t know, I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints and it’s got a lot of variety in terms of members and a lot of the different members have different opinions about teachings in the church. It’s something that I really like about my church, the fact that we freely admit that we don’t know a whole lot about -to quote Douglas Adams- life, the universe and everything. So it automatically creates all these different view points, apart from it being really interesting, it can also get quite confusing.
I know of quite a few people in my church who get really bogged down in what’s true and what isn’t and start asking questions like ‘what exactly happened to this person’, ‘when and where exactly was this’ or ‘why is this doctrine the way it is’. They get into the what’s and the when’s and the why’s so much that they’re missing the bigger picture. They’re looking too closely, so they’re seeing less.
Yes, it’s great fun to think about all these things but when does that stop being innocent curiosity and start being frustrating inquisition? The people I mentioned above all too commonly seem to get so worried about the tiny minor details of the church that aren’t quite black and white yet that they ignore the faith that they have experienced first hand and start to focus on what information the church can’t offer us just yet and then eventually start to fall away from what they used to know was right.
Some things about our church don’t make the slightest bit of sense to me -I can freely admit that. Sometimes I and many others get weighed down with what we don’t understand but it’s okay because you know what? We can overlook those things and remember what is actually important. We can take a step back and say “you know what? I don’t get this, I might never get this, but it’s okay because it’ll all make sense when we move to live with Heavenly Father and we can ask him all these questions then.” Until that happens, we just need to accept that we simply aren’t able to know everything.
There’s a popular metaphor in the church that compares feeling the spirit to being full of food. If you’re starving, you wouldn’t stay clear of food, you’re going to need to eat. It’s the same with the spirit. Thinking about the starvation scenario, if you’re having a tough time feeling the spirit, the logical thing to do wouldn’t be to come away from Church, it would be to keep attending, keep praying, keep reading the scriptures until you can feel that raw passionate emotional feeling that we refer to as “the spirit” when we know of something to be true or good.
Well, I’d like to add another layer of the metaphor. We’ve all had that ‘too full’ feeling just after you finish a meal and you think ‘if I eat another bite I’m going to be sick’ and you actually need to loosen your belt or undo the button of your jeans just you can stand up. If we knew all there is to know about life, the universe and everything it’d be like that too full feeling but much, much worse. There’s a reason why we’re not able to find out all those tiny details -and in some cases big ones- and that reason is that the our brains are too fragile to hold that much information. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the word “eternity” it makes me dizzy and gives me a headache. We simply can’t comprehend the entirety of the universe because it’s just to big and too much to handle.
So, let’s strive for that feeling of comfortable fullness. The kind of fulness you have when you could eat more but you make the smart move not to because you know you can’t handle it. And when you’re at that comfortable fullness, let’s be safe in the knowledge that the food you didn’t get to eat will be available to eat at some other time. Let’s be okay with not looking closely, but looking broadly so we can see the slight of hand behind the magic trick and learn to share with others the joy of magic too.