The Narrowed Lens of a Camera

If you’ve read my other blogs, you know that theology drew me to this trip, but theology is not only component of this program. Journalism and filmmaking are the vehicles through which the theology can be expressed. Cameras intrigue me. I enjoy the art they can capture, but more specifically, I like how they can filter out the noise surrounding any particular object and isolate its individual beauty. Standing in a space and observing with my eyes can be overwhelming. My mind tries to absorb every aspect of the space I am in. It’s too much. This week, I’ve experienced life through the lens of a camera, and it forced me to observe differently.

This photo of me was captured by the fabulous Maria Watson.
This photo of me was captured by the fabulous Maria Watson.

Monday morning, a group of us crossed over to film breakfast at the comedor. Nico told me to get shots of people’s faces and emotions. I set up my tripod at the end of the table and peered into my camera. I found a man to focus on. I set up my color balance, fixated the camera to meet my rule of thirds, and focused the lens on his face. I clicked the record button and just watched. I was so focused on making the shot look good that I hadn’t even looked at what I was filming. Looking at my screen, the only thing I could see was this man’s face. Nothing else. My eyes weren’t distracted by any outside commotion because my camera forced me to look only at the man’s face. He was tired. He was sad. He was hungry. It’s hard to articulate, but I could feel his emotions through the screen, and it was profound. It was heavy. It affected me.

This issue of immigration is so complicated. The system is either broken or nonexistent. After speaking with an Arizona judge, who seemed to be just as frustrated as I was, I realized that this is no quick fix. There are layers. It’s complicated. How do we fix this injustice? It’s so messy. Then I thought back to my experience with the man I filmed. When I thought of him, as a suffering person, I was filled with compassion. I came to a conclusion: politics is complicated, compassion is not. You don’t need any sort of “policy” to stretch out a hand to a marginalized brother. You don’t need to lobby for the cause of feeding a hungry sister. Compassion is simple. Compassion is human. It can be practiced at any moment by any person. All it requires is a love of God, for one who loves God, loves His creation. It’s bigger than politics.

It’s funny to me. This understanding of an overarching concept of faith was realized through the narrowed lens of a camera.

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