This past week a major part of my time has been devoted to the reading of the final page proofs of the devotional book that I have written and that will appear around October 1 (in Dutch), with the title Een Kwestie van Kiezen (A Matter of Choice). Today I hope to scrutinize the pages for the months of November and December.
This work was interrupted by a long, but productive, weekend in Belgium. On Saturday morning I preached to an audience of some one hundred people in the Francophone African Church in Brussels. They have found a place for their worship in a recently renovated building of a Protestant community, not far from the city center. The Adventist group that meets there consists to a large extent of folk who have come from Rwanda. My (French) sermon was, therefore, translated into Kinyarwanda. To my amazement, the French translation took about twice as much time as I needed. Nonetheless, I must assume that my translator gave a reasonably correct version of my sermon.
In addition to a few visits with a predominantly social character, and an important meeting on Monday, we took time for some touristic activities. My wife accompanied me during these days and for that reason we had decided to include a few private items in our program. So, we visited the Atomium and the Magritte museum.
For some time I had been planning to visit the Atomium. It is now 54 years ago, during the World Fair in 1958, that I first visited this impressive structure. Since then I had just looked at it from a distance. To have a coffee in the highest sphere in this fabulous structure, at a height of more than 100 meters, with a magnificent view over the city and its surroundings, was well worth the 8 euro entrance fee (including senior rebate).
So far neither my wife nor I had been to the Margritte museum, in spite of our reasonably frequent visits to the enormous, but rather pompous building of the Natural Museum of the Arts, where also the Magritte museum is housed. The museum is exclusively dedicated to the famous Belgian surrealistic artist, René Magritte (1898-1967). Magritte exceeded our expectations, with regard to his enormous creativity, the multi-sidedness of his work and his workmanship as a painter.
There is one facet that has stayed with me since the weekend: the connection between the Atomium and the work of Magritte. Both offer a particular perspective on reality. The Atomium is a representation of a tiny piece of reality, that we cannot perceive without technical instruments. The iron structure that was erected in Brussels in 1958 consists of nine interconnected spheres, each with a diameter of 18 meters. They are at a distance of 29 meters from each other. Together they represent the crystal structure of an iron atom—but enlarged by a factor of 165 billion! The Atomium represents a small piece of reality, yet in a manner that leaves us with something that no longer is that reality.
Magritte treats reality in his very own way. He looks at it through the prism of his own imagination. As a surrealist he is in search of a subjective reality behind what he perceives at first sight. This imagination can add a dimension and give special meaning to what he sees. It is no longer a matter of exact representation, but about feelings, associations and ideas that are evoked.
Giving it some further thought, it would seem to me that a Christian may add something important to this. The ideas and associations that emerged in the creative genius of Magritte were not inspired by a Christian view of reality. When one looks through the prism of faith at reality, one, first of all, realizes that ultimate Reality is known by God alone. We can only see in part, and we need all kinds of instruments to give structure and meaning to what we see. But, most of all, we need the sacred imagination of faith, a kind of spiritual, biblically informed, surrealistic perspective on Reality. Only then will this Reality open up some of its meaning to us. Or am I wrong?