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Monday, March 21, 2011

Life Is Layered

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) wrote the following in 1845 protesting America’s war with Mexico.

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

(two stanza’s omitted)

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

These verses form a hymn (tune by Franz J. Haydn, 1797) that I have sung many times, fervently in my youth.  My recent work with Photoshop has brought this again to my mind.  In Photoshop exists an editing feature called layers.  Layers allow one to edit a picture without altering the original image.  Elements of the picture can be removed or added, while the original (now the background layer) remains unaltered.  Any element residing on its own layer can be displayed or made invisible.  The photo with all layers can be saved in a special file (Photoshop document file) that can be saved and reloaded countless times.  The great advantage to this technique is that alterations need not be permanent and offer great flexibility in editing.
 The words of James Russell Lowell state the indelibility of personal decisions: Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide….  I have come to believe that life is largely layered.  Not once, but many times we are given opportunities to decide.  If we decide wrong today, we can make redemptive right decisions in the future. And our decisions today often have several dimensions and complexities—and diverse elements.  Photos give one “take” on a scene.  But this take is not final nor even necessarily true to the original scene.  Life presents us with many opportunities to do the right thing even if we have failed to do so in the past.  So I have come to believe with my cherished friend Allan Burry:  Often and repeatedly to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide.  Considering the fallibility of human nature, this is a very good thing.