Driving to church one Sunday morning recently I heard a report on the radio about ‘slow art’. Not something I had considered before, but I discovered there is a Slow Art Movement, and a Slow Art Day (6 April this year), with a mission to help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art.
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” The idea of looking slowly is to make discoveries and experience creativity in new ways. Statistically, visitors to galleries view art masterpieces for an average of just 17 seconds, which is perhaps unsurprising in our fast-paced, sound-bite society, and this movement is seeking to challenge that, to slow people down.
This made me wonder if we might do well to embrace ‘slow prayer’ this lent, and slow reading, and slow looking. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s oft-quoted words remind us of the need to look slowly:
“All of earth is crammed with heaven.
And every bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes.”
What do we see each day?
Do we see Jesus in the face of others? Do we glimpse anything new in a familiar Bible passage? Would we have recognised the Messiah for who he was when he was presented in the temple as the elderly Simeon and Anna did, or would we, like the remainder of those about their business that day, simply not have noticed? Would we have pushed through the crowds to touch the robe of Jesus, or simply passed the throngs by, assuming the rabbi was another rabble-rouser? Do we see, and take off our shoes, because we are on holy ground, or do we miss opportunities because we don’t look slowly enough? Do we take time to make discoveries which bring us joy and make us love God more?
Lent is an opportunity to embrace the discipline of slow, that we might see “God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) We might choose to take in some slow art too!
The Venerable Nikki Groarke
Archdeacon of Dudley