Kaleidoscopes used to be a big thing for kids, yet I’ve not seen one in a while. As described by Wikipedia, “A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection off the mirrors. Coined in 1817 by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, “kaleidoscope” is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms.”
The Basic Elements of a kaleidoscope are: Colorful Images; Moving Images; Beautiful Images; Symmetrical Images. And if the technology had been available to Sir Brewster, he might have added soothing music to the collection, music for meditation. But the music isn’t necessary; it’s the bursts of color, constantly changing as the tube is rotated, that satiate the visual sense to such a point that the other senses are less acute, less active, less attention paid. In ways this is what television does to us as we watch. I remember when my parents brought home their first television. The actual viewing screen, the tube, was small, but the cabinet was very big. It was black and white, and we could watch one or two channels. I remember one night when I awoke from a nightmare and stayed up for a while watching the Phil Silvers Show. It was captivating enough that my nightmare fell away quickly into the hole of forgetfulness. And that was in black and white. It wasn’t until many years later that we had our first color television. Now that drew our attention. And for me it still does.
It happens when I’m at peoples homes who are unaccustomed to silence. Entering their homes I’d find a television in centrally located in the main room. In more than one home, I’ve found televisions strategically located throughout the house, even the kitchen. For me, the presence of a television, regardless to which station it is tuned, is a magnet for my attention. Sitting in a living room with several others having a conversation, I’d find myself constantly drawn to the TV, and I noticed so did the others in the room.
And televisions are appearing every where these days. They’re in restaurants. They’re in waiting rooms. They’re on buses and metro trains. I imagine them to line the streets some day. Oh, wait, that’s already happening with moving images on bill boards along highways. This reminds me of the child-care/pre-school up the road. It was only the second business to be opened along the rural road, and started with a small sign. Just this last year, the sign was replaced with an electronic bill board that scrolls various advertisements and slogans in bright lights. Even the schools and churches are putting up these electronic bill boards with bright scrolling advertisements crossing the sign. I wonder how many near-accidents have occurred while drivers tried to read the bill boards.
Maybe the reason there aren’t kaleidoscopes around any longer is that the world has become one big one. Everywhere we go, every where we turn, colorful images, moving images, beautiful images abound. There’s a saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Today, we can not see the forest, we cannot see the trees, for all the images thrust before us, grabbing our attention. Aren’t we missing something through all this? Just like the kaleidoscope, our visual sense is overloaded to the point that our other senses are dulled. What would we feel, what would we hear, if we focused away from the images bombarding us?
In the second chapter of the Book of Proverbs (v.2), we are instructed to:
. . . make your ear attentive to wisdom.
The commentary in my Jewish Study Bible describes two lady personifications. One is Wisdom, the other the “strange woman,” that is Lady Folly, the symbol of wicked counsels and a figure for heresy, of foreign wisdom.
Like the television that is magnet for the eyes, images daily inundate our senses–we miss the call of Lady Wisdom and are seduced by the sensual pleasure offered our flesh by Lady Folly. We are being deceived. G-d is being undermined by fast-paced images beconing us toward the abyss.
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .