Taking Time to See

Dear Friends,

Last weekend Tracey and I went into a flurry of movie watching to prepare for The Oscars. On Friday night, we watched American Fiction, on Saturday morning we went to The Music Box to see Perfect Days, and on Saturday afternoon we watched The Holdovers. What an array of films! I loved each of them but was especially taken by Perfect Days, perhaps because we saw it on the big screen with popcorn. 

Directed by the great Wim Wenders, this film arose because Wenders was approached to make a short film that highlighted the amazing public toilets of Japan—always perfectly clean and often beautifully designed. Instead of making a commercial, Wenders created a story centered on Hirayama who cleans these toilets and the life he crafts focused on simple pleasures, finding beauty and meaning in each day. 

Hirayama rises each morning to water the small group of tree seedlings he nurtures in beautiful porcelain pots; when he sees a struggling seedling in a public park, he pulls out a flat piece of newspaper folded so it might become a little pot to transfer that seedling to his ersatz greenhouse at home. Each day he pauses to observe how light falls through the trees, sometimes capturing that light with his analog camera. Each day he drives to work listening to his favorite songs on cassette—Patti Smith, Nina Simone, and Lou Read, including “Perfect Day,” from which the movie takes its title.

I could continue, but you get the idea. Hirayama’s life isn’t perfect, and he seems to have chosen this simplicity as a talisman against a past filled with shadows.

But these ordinary, perfect days are only so because Hirayama pays such exquisite attention. There is dialogue in the movie, but it is the visuals, the way of seeing that matter.

Taking time to see, to really see, is a discipline. 

When we slow down and savor what is before us, it can become extraordinary, beautiful.

When we slow down and really pay attention to what is before us, it becomes important to us, we care, we act when necessary.

Seeing is a way to see God, God at work, God in the world, God in other people.

This Sunday, we’ll hear in the Gospel about some Greeks who come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Ah, don’t we all?

Perhaps we begin by looking.

Faithfully, Suzanne+