This Sunday we will celebrate six jr. youth coming of age. The scripture they have chosen to shape the worship theme is Jeremiah 1:1-14. After an initial call from the Lord to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s response that he is too young and cannot speak, the Lord asks him a question: “What do you see?”
Along with pondering this simple but profound question I’ve also been pondering what we don’t see – or what just goes unseen. Two weeks ago I was driving up to Bluffton for a pastor-peer meeting. As I traveled north the trees started to become covered with a thin, and then rather thick, layer of frost. I had left in good time, was driving on rural roads, and decided to pull over and get a closer look. The ice crystals were stacked over a half inch on top of every horizontal surface I could see, intricate and fragile, turning into dust and falling to the ground at the flick of a finger or wisp of breath, catching the light as it fell. It was an utterly extravagant display of beauty, and I only focused my attention on one of the many twigs on one of the many branches on one of the many trees along the way. How much beauty flashes in and out of existence in this world in places noticeable and entirely inaccessible to human view?
This week I was perusing through the January edition of Sojourners magazine and read an article by Danny Duncan Collum about things we don’t see of any entirely different nature. Collum cites an October 23, 2014 article on Wired.com (contains honest? graphic? language) reporting that there are about 100,000 people employed in the business of internet ‘content moderation,’ viewing and deleting offensive material posted to social networks such as child pornography and gruesome violence. In other words, we are spared from having these images pop up in our internet experience because there are people who, in the words of the Wired article, “soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us.” Much of the work is done in the Philippines for salaries of about $300-$500 per month and many of the workers express symptoms of PTSD due to constant exposure to these troubling images.
I had no idea. I guess I thought tech folks had figured out some kind of screening process that was purely technological, one more algorithm to detect and block these things. Apparently not. What we don’t see gets screened by people we don’t see doing jobs we didn’t know existed.
Seeing is an intensely spiritual act as it opens our experience to a wider circle of reality. In this world we see an abundance of beauty, and violence. Or we don’t see it.