This year, I have landed on something I hadn’t expected to land on. In my quest to find purpose in life, the journey has led me to a place of seeking intentionality with not only each step, but also every breath. This dawned on me recently while working on a project surrounding my photography where I wrote these words for the about page on the site:
My name is Gunnar Simonsen. I take pictures on-the-go using my phone. My objective is simple.. find the story in everything. Follow me on Instagram, here. Proud Portlander • Love God • Love Family • Love Others
What did I just say? “My objective is simple.. find the story in everything.” I recently received this comment about one of the pictures I took: “I love the beauty you find in your pictures.” In this, I was so blessed to hear this. I responded with, “Thank you!!! My objectives have narrowed down to simply this in pictures.. or life in general for that matter… find the story in everything. In this, so much beauty awaits.”
When did this happen? When did this become my objective? What does this even mean?
I read this short review on a book about one of my favorite writers earlier tonight about their take on nature that seemed to bring a much clearer definition to that which I have found myself chasing lately..
“Thomas Merton saw the hidden praise of God in the world of nature but understood that to sense that presence required a contemplative and poetic eye.” -Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, The University of Notre Dame
Perhaps in this, my soul longs to not just find the story in everything, but to rather see the hidden praise of God in everything. Perhaps in this, that which I am gaining is a contemplative and poetic eye. I can only wish this is the case. For in this and beyond all the material things the world should offer me, having this seems to carry the utmost of profound opportunities to see this life with purpose. Yet too often, we do life with what we think is purpose, but instead looks more like any thing but purpose. Distracted by not just technology (for that is a way too easy of a target), but by our need to be and remain relevant, we chase life in order to survive rather than to live life in order to thrive.
In all of this we miss all of that.. which God has to offer.
I had the honor to be asked to speak at a high school film camp during spring break one year on social justice. There was so much one could say about the role of film in social justice, but in order to remove my ego from the equation which could have led me to opine for much longer than necessary, I was led to pare my message down to this simple statement:
“Take my eyes past that which my eyes have seen.”
Interesting. Being this was maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I think it was more a case of words spilling out of my mouth that I honestly had no idea what I was actually saying. Perhaps they were meant to chart my course. Sometimes I think we say things that are not as much about the moment we say them, but somehow instead are pointing us towards a moment when we might begin to understand them. But in film, one can be deliberate on the cutting room floor. With ample time, one can tell a story that does indeed take our eyes past that which our eyes have seen. To take our eyes to the cause behind the effect.
However, life is real time. To do this is to recalibrate.
We miss so much when we fail to breathe. I often think that If the world came to an end because I took a moment to exhale, that maybe I should not have held my breath that long in the first place. Perhaps all of this is a sign that I am finally beginning to learn how to breathe.
To breathe is to live.
As I grow older, my need to recalibrate daily is not just essential, it’s absolutely critical. And as much as it is life-saving, it is also even more so life-giving. It’s life-giving because in seeking this one can then begin to see the story in everything.. the hidden praise of God. This sure is a long way from here..
“If I only knew the path that was before me. If I only understood the wake that which was behind me. Perhaps in this, I could have avoided a lot of pain. Living off snapshots of a blurry landscape was what I did best.”
Maybe I am moving forward in life after all. Maybe it’s not always about the paycheck and stuff that buy me the luxuries in life that are supposed to make me happy. Perhaps in one’s ability to see and experience the hidden praise of God in everything is really… all we need. I like this objective much better than the last objective. For this one, I actually get to breathe. In this, I find my purpose. In this, I finally begin to… experience life. Pondering progress.