Pain and Beauty
Process Theology and the Photography of Giles Duley
Listen to the interview from The RSA
Or Scroll down for the TED talk
We are grateful to Giles Duley for his work. It naturally invites theological reflections of a verbal kind, but the photographs are theology, too. We offer a small sample on this page. Please go to his website for more theology.
Creative Transformation. Creative transformation is the activity of responding to the circumstances of your life, in community with others, in ways that turn pain into power, resentment into love, sadness into service. It is the way that the mystery at the heart of the universe -- God -- is present in human life. God is not only a loving presence around us; God is also the process within us, and between us, as our lives are transformed in these ways. The process includes our own agency and God's agency, as two sides of a single becoming. God can't do it without us and we can't do it without God. It's called co-creativity.
The Suffering of God. The Life in whom all lives unfolds is affected by every bit of suffering. When we reduce suffering; when we hear the calling, we help make God whole.
But we don't do it for God. We do it for the person -- God or no God. If we love others only because we see God in them, that is shallow love. "God" gets in the way and we need a little "death of God" theology. It is best to love others on their own terms and for their own sakes. This is the kind of love in which God takes delight.
Theodicy. The universe unfolds within the consciousness of a larger Life, namely"God." God does not make things happen as they happen; there is not a script which God knows in advance. There are many things that happen in the world which God does not and cannot prevent. The universe is powerful, too, and that power can unfold in ways both beautiful and horrible. But God is continuously present as a guiding lure and source of fresh possibilities for responding to whatever accidents befall us. These are possibilities for creative transformation, for love, for making a way out of no way. Love-making: that's turning pain into beauty.
Who is Giles Duley?
From TED talk page on Giles Duley:
"Giles was a photographer who, some years ago, tired of celebrity photoshoots and the attendant egos and tantrums that often accompanied them. He flung his camera on the photoshoot bed and it bounced out the window into the streets of SoHo, London. At that point he decided to change course and dedicated himself to using his camera to "tell unheard stories of those caught in conflict and economic hardship around the world." His work took him to Sudan, Angola, Ukraine and Bangladesh, among other places. Early in 2011, on assignment in Afghanistan, Duley stepped on a landmine. Despite the fact that the horrific accident left Duley a triple amputee, he continues to dedicate his life to telling stories through photography."
Ministry: A ministry is an inwardly-felt calling to which you respond, given the skills you have at your disposal, the circumstances of your life, and the realities of the world around you. Often it is a calling to courage and compassion, to wisdom and service. You may or may not believe in a caller within or behind the calling. Still you hear the call and respond. In effect you become a minister, an imam, a rabbi, a priest, a fully human being. No further credentials are required.
The Body of Christ. The spirit of creative transformation cannot be measured in terms of the number of limbs a person has or has lost, or by the presence of scars on the body. People who have lost limbs may bear more spirit than people who have all their limbs.
Christ is a name the Christic dimension of God: that side of God which elicits fellowship and openness, courage and creativity. This is the side of God that is present in creative transformation.
The body of Christ is any and every body which becomes a place -- a site -- for receiving and giving love. Happily, thankfully, Christ has many bodies. Many are human, many are animals and plants. Landscapes and waterways can be bodies of Christ, too.
Holy Icons A holy icon is any person who is a window to the divine. The person becomes a stained glass window through whom holy light shines. We can only see the light if we are jolted out of particular and fixed ways of looking at things. If we are addicted to familiarity, if we prioritize some faces as 'normal' and others as 'abnormal' we miss out on many, many icons. The proper response to an icon is respect and gratitude, amazement and awe. We see beauty.
Community of Faith. A community of faith is any group of people who help each other in mutually supportive ways, opening themselves to creative transformation. It takes faith: trust in the power of creative transformation. This trust may or may not be articulated in religious ways. Still it has a religious side to it. Religion is never quite reducible to "religion."
Nor is ministry. Part of the ministry of Giles Duley -- whatever his religious persuasion happens to be or not be -- is to photograph people and communities of faith: that is, to document the lives of people who are making a way of no way together, in courage and kindness, together. They are nurses, doctors, amputees. They are communities of faith.
Evangelism. Evangelism is the activity of inviting someone into a life of compassion, having given one's life to that life, as best you can.
Below you'll find Giles Duley's invitation at the end of his TED talk. He does not invite us into a discipleship of belief; we can believe whatever we want. He invites us into a discipleship of kindness. Of helping others.
In the house of kindness there are many rooms. Sometimes beauty comes from pain. Sometimes it doesn't. But in documenting the pain there's a kind of beauty, otherwise called truth.
I just wanted to say that life goes on all around the world. People are going through terrible things. Everyone of us is going through our own terrible experience. But if we share those and we talk about stories,then we can inspire each other,to get through our own bad experiences. I know that the people I have recorded have got me to this point. I hope in some small way the stories I have been able to tell you would help you to get through things. And in turn, I hope you will use your experiences to help others.