Culture At Large

Seeing unseen things

John Van Sloten

Scientists are in the business of seeing unseen things.

I’ve noticed that whenever I learn about the discovery of something that’s never been seen or known before, I feel a sense of epiphany and elation - an instinctive, illumining kind of joy. It makes me think that I’m made to see unseen things.

A couple of months ago a friend sent me a link to a fascinating video introducing new technology being developed by a group of scientists at MIT (you can watch the video below). They’ve come up with recording software that amplifies slight changes in color and movement, right down to the level of a pixel. Their discovery makes visible things that were formerly invisible. Subtle eye movements are clearly seen. A pulse is revealed on a baby’s face.

“There’s a big world of small motions out there,” says one researcher. I couldn’t agree more.

Watching the clip, I realized that the Holy Spirit amplifies reality so that we can see what's really happening: God's imperceptible movements, behind the scenes, made visible, a beating heart just below the surface, the Spirit’s subtle color variations spread across the face of the cosmos. 

This new technology made me think of how the Bible’s prophets were able to perceive reality beneath and beyond appearances. Jesus often amplified the nature of the ordinary, proclaiming unseen kingdom truths as He saw them in seeds, grapevines and shrewd managers. Surely He had an amplified view of reality - and calls us to have the same.

Which makes me wonder if MIT’s new way of seeing can help us to that end.

The Holy Spirit amplifies reality so that we can see what's really happening: God's imperceptible movements, behind the scenes, a beating heart just below the surface.

The Holy Spirit amplifies reality so that we can see what's really happening: God's imperceptible movements, behind the scenes, a beating heart just below the surface.

I guess they’ve already done that by showing us that there’s more to reality than meets the eye. What else can be revealed through this idea of amplification? Is there a spiritual correlative to this technological innovation, a way for us to see beyond the surface?

I think it begins with the understanding that we are made in the image of a God who sees and notices everything - with perfect clarity. God doesn’t miss a thing.

I also think that humanity collectively images this all-seeing God, each person with their own specialized area (pixel) of amplification. Designers and artists image their Creator’s eye via an amplified sense of visual aesthetic. Accountants and engineers reflect God’s rational mind through their magnified sense of the empirical. Athletes and dancers are physically conscious of the subtlest movement, imaging an incarnate God who watches every step. The best counselors and sociologists are interpersonally aware right down to the last relational pixel, imaging their triune, inter-relating God.

We glimpse the fullness of our all-seeing God when we observe the breadth and diversity of humanity. Those with amplified sensitivities in any given sphere inspire us and magnify that particular facet of our Maker’s nature. In a way, they elicit the same kind of seeing-something-unseen epiphany that scientists do.

It seems God spreads sensory amplification around, leaving us dependent on others for sight. Which offers another insight. Jesus, the apostle Paul writes, is the image of the unseen God. He’s the icon through which we look to see God. The one through whom we receive the eye, ear, heart, soul and mind-amplifying Spirit.

“Once we amplify it and show what’s there, there’s a whole new world - all sorts of things you can look at,” the MIT scientist says.

We’ve all experienced the new take on reality that comes from watching something in slow motion. But what these MIT programmers have done is amplify reality in real time. That, to me, seems a lot more in line with the kind of seeing we’ll possess on the new earth - fully and completely seeing while living our magnified human lives.

The universe has a pulse, and we are meant to see it.

 

 
 

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science, Technology, Theology & The Church, Theology