April 20, 2010

Image as Insight: A Dichotomy Out the Window

Editor's Note: Baya Clare, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet came up with the very clever and on-point title for her latest column. Having noted that, the editor would love to know if readers have a special affinity to special church windows.

This week's image is one that hangs in my bedroom. It's the last thing I look at (well, before I take off my glasses) at night, and the second thing (after the time on my clock radio) I see in the morning. It's a photograph of the Space Window at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

I've visited the National Cathedral only once, in the spring of 2001, when I was in DC for a conference. I spent an afternoon exploring it with a friend, and have been enchanted by its art and architecture ever since.

Did you know that one of the gargoyles is made in the image of Darth Vader? What's cooler than that? Or that the high altar is made from stones from the same quarry as Solomon's Temple?

But back to the Space Window.

It's one of more than 200 stained glass windows, many of which are of the usual subjects: incidents in the life of Jesus, saints, and so on. Others commemorate prominent Americans such as Andrew Carnegie and Robert E. Lee. There's even a tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Of all the National Cathedral's wonderful art, I love the Space Window and not only because it is beautiful and interesting and contains a moon rock! It also refuses to assert the false dichotomy between science and religion.

Buckminster Fuller once said, "When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."

The Space Window celebrates the innate beauty of the created world and celebrates the process of coming to understand it by both science and faith in a way that we rarely see. I like the way our view of space is positioned behind the branch-like framework, reminding me that, for all that I do and can see, my view is still limited and incomplete. The use of primary colors and basic shapes reminds me of the elegant simplicity of creation's design.

The Space Window was designed by Rodney Winfield and installed in 1973, four years after the first lunar landing.

1 comment:

Meredith Gould said...

As God's grace (and humor) would have it, the Space Window has very special meaning for me, so I was delighted to read this post!