In a Mirror, Dimly: Why Presence Matters

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” -1 Corinthians 13:12

About a year ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Between the crowds and the security I didn’t have much time with Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and, in truth, I could have seen it in more detail on my computer. But there was something special about walking up to the masterpiece in person and allowing the imposing canvas to draw me in, step by step.

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Art museums today stay in business precisely because a painting is more than an image; it is a material creation with a physical presence. So too is it with the human person. You are more than a spirit — you are both body and soul. Human nature cannot be understood apart from corporeality. To reject the unity of body and soul is to fall victim to what Walker Percy referred to as “angelism-bestialism.”

The only way to truly relate to another human being, then, is to accept that the other is both corporeal and spiritual. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to experience the physical presence of the other. Therein lies the power of face-to-face conversation, of the handshake, of the kiss. It’s why Dante merely fainted at seeing Beatrice in a crowd — would he have swooned at her Instagram profile? Continue reading “In a Mirror, Dimly: Why Presence Matters”

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