Sticking your head out

As someone who spends a lot of time staring at a blank computer screen, I try to select images for my desktop that will remind me what I’m supposed to be about. My latest is a hand-colored version of the “Flammarion engraving,” an anonymous wood engraving first published in 1888 in L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire by Camille Flammarion.

The Flammarion engraving

It shows a man in a monk’s robe with his head stuck out through the sky to look upon the heavenly realms. While this medieval vision of cosmology has long been superseded by science, the engraving still holds a psychological truth–that there is an unseen world of wonders always just out of view. While the world of the monk is full of its own beauty, he reaches out for what is beyond.

It is the most human of aspirations, and one that anyone working in the media must keep in mind. People go out of themselves and their daily lives into the worlds we present–on the radio, online, in books and performances. While we may not be able to deliver the music of the spheres or the great engine of Ezekiel’s wheel, we do our best when we create wonder, when we make the audience glad that they came, when we give them something so astonishing and unexpected that they reach out to touch it.

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3 Responses to “Sticking your head out”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    Positives and negatives are here on display.
    The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?
    Is this why many people hope/believe in an afterlife?
    The style reminds me of some Tarot card drawings.

  2. Ellen says:

    Fantastic! The real world is so vivid, while the “other” world is pale and featureless – is this a cautionary illustration depicting the temptation to get lost in dreamy thinking?

    I also love to find meaningful images for my desktop. I tend towards paintings and artworks, rather than photos. Brueghel the elder fits my mood these days, delighting in the texture of everyday life.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    Ellen,
    I often wonder about people who want miracles but fail to see the miracle they are and are a part of.