Behind closed doors, in cupboards, canyons, in tight corners where our thoughts start to form, are places where we can be invisible. The idea of being invisible and knowing it is not permanent begins early in life with peek-a-boo and hide and seek. The more catastrophic versions in adult life appear in the terrorist events like we have had in such bold and brazen horror of 9/11 and this week in New Zealand.
I have been listening to Akiko Busch’s book “ How to Disappear” this past week which could not have been a more perfect companion to lead me into new understanding and to consider the power of being invisible and its worth and power. To be able to hide in full view without recognition in this age of transparency is the art of deception on one hand and a protective filter on the other. Plenty of trolls make up multiple identities on line to maintain their anonymity. Others seek to go under the radar by not participating on an electoral roll. There are those who are foils for each other (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway springs to mind) enabling the other to be seen and unseen.
The price of privacy has both public and personal power. It can leave a path of destruction and deception. The ability to blend in and be concealed in plain sight requires the capacity to camouflage and to be so much a part of the familiar that we do not detect anything out of place. In her book, Busch, uses images from nature, art and the public realms to demonstrate how fish and plants and social media use various guises to be invisible. Whole communities participate in mythological creatures that hold the invisible world in memory and discourse. The immortality of thin places just a gossamer thread between heaven and earth is part of my heritage and I recognise the banshees howling in the night when ill winds blow. The invisibility of Mercury in retrograde has been the topic of conversation amongst a number of friends this week as an explanation to troubles personal and at scale. The British PM Theresa May was referenced in her Parliament House as being an emperor with no clothes – an embarrassing slur.
How something moves from being invisible to visible has always fascinated me, and I have often reflected and advised about how to do both. There have been times I have advised about making a political announcement on a day when other things are happening so it will just slip by, or where leaving a blank space and not saying something is a way of making something more visible. In theology the principle of the hermeneutic of suspicion, where you read into the narrative with the knowledge of history and aligned facts what is written into the text and not just an act of reading between the lines (e.g two people walking along a road, that is always walked by a man and a woman on market day is a man and a woman walking along a road to market).
My eyes and ears have been re-opened this week to looking at was is actually visible and invisible. Where are the spaces we make between us to hold what can’t be seen when there is no space for them to be seen. I invited a group last night to stretch out their hands either side of them to create space between them, so they intentionally make space for others. These spaces in between are silently held, but no longer invisible. We hold the space so there is room for others. Those of us with the privilege to make the spaces and to then hold them, seems to be more and more vital, else we might all disappear. Not holding these spaces, not caring for them is already seeing the destruction of place, species and diversity.
Each act of terrorism is an invitation to make more space and to hold what is sacred in those spaces. Hate grows in the dark under cloaks of invisibility, eternal vigilance is not enough, being able to see clearly what is actually there – fear of the other – must be countered by the biggest version of what it means to be us as a planet and a species. The young students who striked all over the world on Friday are crying out to be no longer invisible, children, seeking to be seen and heard. They didn’t choose terrorism. They too are calling for a bigger version of what it means to be included.
No longer silent nor invisible, sparks will fly.