Amid the Swelter of Chaos

Thom Fiet

A woman stared at her portrait, still shimmering new from the hand of the master, Pablo Picasso. Before her, imprisoned in the frame, a tangle of broken shapes—a triangle representing her head, rectangles for extremities, an oval for a torso. A shock of tormented tassel of hair. A single dot representing what she thought to be her ample bosom (or was the dot her eye?). Horrified, she shouted, “This doesn’t look at all like me, not at all!”

Picasso replied: “It will.”

In the aesthetic movement known as Cubism, rudimentary geometric shapes are employed as a way of entering and understanding reality and existence. Just a few shapes are all we get to tell our truth about being.

Cubism teaches that through the simple and chaste use of form and color, great truth about our lives can be revealed. How the shapes are shaded, colored, and placed will create a new revelation about life—a new knowing.

The same is often true with words. We have at our command a limited vocabulary carved from a few wells of experience. Armed with this limitation, we engage the Enormity of life. Good luck.

Most of us need help naming what is happening to us. One of the most vital aspects of church life is to become a congregation of interpretation. We help one another put simple words in place to speak about our lives, and how God might be involved in it all. We use our own words and the Word to help us reach a place where we can speak with the furies. As a congregation, we name the great themes in us, around us, and beyond us. With the placement of a little word here and another there, huge understandings emerge even amid the swelter of chaos. In the words, we discover our voice, a revelation that can alter the trajectory of our lives, eventually leading us to a long-awaited place where we can say, “It looks just like me.”

This sort of reframing knowledge creates in a person the impulse to form a new worldview, and with it a more profound understanding of one’s calling and purpose. I cannot think of too many institutions that will help us do this important and holy work—but churches are perfect for it, particularly when we allow the word of our parabolic Christ to dwell richly with our own.

Thom Fiet is minister of the Pleasant Plains Presbyterian Church in Staatsburg, New York.