Thursday, August 30, 2012
A good friend on chemotherapy suffered a heart attack early this year which was controlled with the application of a stint in his heart. He knew I liked to photograph the worldly beauty found in things like colorful blooms, sunrises and sunsets. After a few days in the hospital, he was released late in the day. He sent me a message that he and his wife had encountered a beautiful sunset building in the western Kansas sky as they drove home. As he related the experience, a large opening formed in the clouds to release a burst of brilliant light rays “shouting to all that GOD IS IN THE HOUSE”! The scene played out quickly just as they drove into their hometown and heard the sound of church bells ringing. His closing salutation read, “WOW!! Life is GOOD”!
My friend had experienced one of those anagogical moments in life. I hadn’t ever encountered this term until that very morning as I ironically finished a book about Leonardo Da Vinci’s image of Vitruvian Man. It seems that the term anagoge can be defined as the uplifting spiritual sense that is experienced when we encounter glimpses of heaven in worldly things such as aha text or breath taking images. I’m certain that at some point in your life such an image has crossed your path as well. The astronauts of Sky Lab II used it for their mission logo.
The Roman architect Vitruvius first proposed that the human body could be fit within a circle, representing the divine, and a square, representing the worldly. That gave rise to the theory of microcosm, man representing the cosmos in miniature—created in God’s own image. Leonardo was able to actually draw this concept, possibly using himself as a model, and keeping man at the center of each symbol, by lowering the square and positioning Vitruvian Man with arms and legs spread in the circle while overlaying Virtuvian Man standing with legs together and arms outstretched in the square. The iconic image was the culmination of numerous hours of studying human anatomy to gain an anagogical perspective on ourselves and our universe. Leonardo was the consummate Renaissance man whose genius and inquisitive mind literally moved the bar for all mankind.
I had already experienced one of my own anagogical moments while driving at sunset across the Kansas Flint Hills with my daughter and sister. Fortunately, I had a camera at the ready and captured one of those “lucky present moments”. The sun had just been obscured by a passing cumulous cloud revealing glorious crepuscular light rays casting God’s grace upon the earth. I sent the image to my friend after receiving his message. I’m thankful that my friend had this reassuring experience of God’s presence in such a sunset, as he died of cancer just four months later. And the Roman cross that held Christ’s body in much the same image as Vitruvian Man assures all of us that He defeated death and secured eternal life for those like my friend who believe.