meaning

The mystery beyond

by Steve Brock on March 27, 2016

Mystery stepsLately, I’ve been curious about curiosity. I’ve wondered about different types of curiosity and how to (and why one would want to) enhance your curiosity. But I’ll be honest. Curiosity, while critical to learning, innovation and discovery, has always felt like the superficial cousin to the deeper concept of mystery.

A curiosity, like the right response on Jeopardy, may be fun to know. But mystery invites us in on a deeper level.

When I travel, I am relentlessly curious. I want to know more about the people, places and cultures I visit. On most trips, my desire to learn remains at the curiosity level. Where I regularly cross over into the world of the mysterious isn’t when I’m exploring some ancient ruin or a dark forest. It’s when I return from my trip.

The greatest mysteries of travel tend to occur after we get home when we’re trying to figure out what the whole trip meant. It is in the return when I have to confront the bigger questions: How have I changed? What do those changes mean for my life moving forward? What have I become and what am I becoming as a result of this trip?

These questions can lead to others (and even, occasionally some answers) that both make complete sense even as they don’t.

Which leads me to today. I write this on Easter morning. I used to see this day not as one of mystery, but of revelation. Mystery was wrapped up in the darkness of the Cross on Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday, in my mind, has always been the bright day when all the answers become clear.

Now, I’m not so sure. As with travel and coming home to confront all that we have learned and are becoming, I think the mystery is just beginning. We’re given enough to grasp the basic story of death, resurrection, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life as a result. But for me, what lies beyond the Resurrection now holds the deeper mystery. Not on a cosmic or theological level so much as on a personal one.

Simply put, what does it mean to live in light of the Resurrection?

Easter reminds me that just like returning from a trip, I have to be curious enough to engage the mystery. I have to wrestle with the tension of not knowing. I have to keep pursuing answers even when the questions themselves aren’t clear and to realize that the few answers I do get may be as uncomfortable as they are ultimately satisfying.

So why do I do this? Why pursue the mystery that lies beyond the trip or beyond the empty tomb? Because in the journey, in the struggle through the mystery itself, is where we find life. It’s become almost bumper-sticker trite to say that the value of the trip is found not in the destination but in the journey. But I think the Resurrection reveals to us an added and often missing dimension.

The deeper value is not in the journey on the trip and nor in the destination, but in the journey after the destination. The stone rolled away from that tomb reveals both the completion of one story and the beginning of an entirely new one. The mystery of both travel and the Resurrection is that the journey we thought we were wrapping up is only just now starting. We have entered a place of closure only to find a doorway to a brand new adventure.

It’s a mystery we’re not meant to solve. Instead, it’s one we’re invited to celebrate, be part of, discover – and live.

 

 

 

 

 

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The way of meaning

by Steve Brock on September 25, 2014

Artist Tools

A quick trip over to dictionary.com gave me two definitions of the word, “meaning:”

1)     That which is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated.

2)   The end, purpose or significance of something.

Both apply when we talk about meaningful travel. And interestingly, neither imply that for travel to be meaningful, you have to travel far.

Case in point: This last weekend, my wife and I headed up to Edmonds, WA, about 15 minutes north of Seattle. It’s far enough away not to seem overly familiar yet close enough to reach without concerns of it being a “big trip.”

Why go? Because that weekend 23 different artists’ studios were open to the public. This, we found out from one of the artists we visited, is the 9th year they’ve done the tours of the studios. I’d call them more open houses than tours, but why get picky about terms? The result was that we were able to meet dozens of artists (some studios hosted multiple artists), see their works and get to know the art scene there better.

We also had a wonderful lunch, wandered the extensive farmer’s market in downtown Edmonds, visited some favorite stores and overall had a great day on the last (and glorious) day of summer.

All well and good, you might say, but why was it meaningful?

Let’s go back to the second definition of “meaning,” “the end, purpose or significance of something.” What was the purpose of our trip? To visit artist’s studios and see art. But here’s the real question: What was the significance of it?

That’s harder to answer, yet more important. Significance is often not something that is readily explained.

Think about the people or experiences that have mattered most to you. Can you summarize quickly and succinctly why they matter? Chances are, you have to think about it, reflect on it and even then, your answers may feel either overblown or inadequate, like trying to describe the color yellow or the smell of a rose.

Often what matters most to us is what is hardest to express to others. Meaning isn’t always translatable.

Regarding our trip this weekend the short answer – at least for now – is that our time was meaningful because it reminded us of how important art is in our lives. Not just individually, but to us as a couple:

  • Our first date was to an art museum. Make that three museums. In one day.
  • I knew on our third date – in the garden of another art museum – that this was the woman I was going to marry. The fact that we were surrounded by the beauty of nature and art didn’t lead me to that realization. Or maybe it did in ways I’m only now understanding.
  • Our oldest son is a graphic design major in college. He called last night to talk about how to balance a passion for art with ministry and serving others. Our words to him? Whoever said they weren’t or couldn’t be the same thing?
  • As I passed my youngest son’s room a few minutes ago, I see that he is deeply engaged in his latest art project.

So why was our mini-trip to visit artists’ studios so meaningful? I can’t tell you more than I just did. But perhaps, as is the way of meaning, that’s enough.

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Forgetting what you love

by Steve Brock on April 25, 2014

Landing in Salt Lake CityLast week I was in Chicago for work. I had an early morning return flight, so I was up before the sun and walking into the terminal a little after 6:00 a.m. As I did so, I turned and looked out on the pinkish glow of the morning sky. “Nice light,” I thought, the photographer in me about as awake as the rest of me. Then I turned and walked into the terminal.

Even as I waited in the security line I wondered this, “What has happened? A year ago, I would have had my camera out and would have found something – anything – to photograph here.” Even in the terminal, waiting to board, I looked out the large windows near the “L” concourse and thought about taking a picture.

“Nah,” I reasoned. “Too much of a hassle. Plus, I already have a ton of airport shots.” At that point, I headed to the gate to wait and to forget I even had the brief desire to photograph.

Two days later at home, I’m on my desktop computer where all of my photos are stored. For some reason, I toggle through the screens and end up on Lightroom, the program I use for processing and organizing my images. The photo you see above was displayed. I have no idea why. I hadn’t been looking at it or any other photos taken around the same time. But Lightroom can have a mind of its own sometimes.

It’s not a great shot. In fact, I added some texture to it in Photoshop to cover the reflection from the inside of the plane cabin that occurred when I took the photo one evening landing in Salt Lake City on a stopover heading home. But I just stared at it, entranced by the colors and the clouds and the reminders that images can bring to you of trips past.

It made me sad.

Why? Because it made me realize that in the busyness of the last several months, I have let photography slip away. I had my trusty point and shoot camera with me in Chicago and the camera on my phone is quite good and always with me. It’s not like I lacked the means. I just lacked the desire.

We can become so busy with things, often very good things, that we let others go. It’s natural in a world where we cannot add even a second to our daily allotment of 24 hours. But last week made me realize that in the inevitability of limited time, I don’t want to lose what matters.

The funny thing is, my busyness right now is mostly spent on other things that matter a great deal. It’s not like I’ve become addicted to video games or watching marathon sessions of House of Cards. In life, we will always have to make choices not so much between good and bad – we’re usually OK with that – but between good and best.

So here’s my question for you: What’s your best? What brings life and joy to you? And are you spending time with it, whatever that might be? Are you investing in what you love or are you allowing the distractions of life to pull you away? What, in your heart of hearts, do you miss right now?

I think I’m in a season of rest, a pause from photography. I’ll still take a shot here and there, but I think there will come a time when the longing to create a powerful image overwhelms me. I will at that point do whatever it takes to take whatever it is that moves me.

But how about for you? Are you in a season of rest? Or have you simply let slide that which fulfills and satisfies you? Listen to those longings. Heed them. After all, you only have 24 hours each day to do not just what seemingly has to be done, but what should be done.

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There is room

by Steve Brock December 27, 2013

A holiday trip reminds me that Christmas comes and goes. We forget what it means because we make no room for such things in our busy lives. But can we?

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The five P’s of a good story

by Steve Brock March 22, 2013

Follow these five principles or elements of a good story and those travel tales you tell after a trip will definitely be better

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Messages along the way

by Steve Brock May 16, 2012

God often speaks to us in subtle ways. On trips, however, sometimes he’s not so subtle. A quick weekend trip to Leavenworth, WA and some graffiti on an old bridge raise questions about how – and what – we discover when we travel.

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Elephants, plumbs and intentionality

by Steve Brock April 11, 2012

Great photography, meaningful travel and spiritual growth all share this common connection: they each require intentionality.

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