Is Seeing Believing?
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools
To consider whether everything has to be seen and fully understood to be a reality.
Preparation and materials
You will need a reader for the Bible passage, Mark 9.2-5, which is the account of the transfiguration of Jesus.
You will also need a large cardboard box or a long cardboard tube from inside a box of cling film or foil.
Have available the music ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from The Planets suite by Holst and the means to play it at the beginning of the assembly. A version is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I and is 7.26 minutes long.
Alternatively, choose your favourite piece of expressive music to play.
Play the music ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’, asking the students to imagine what picture the composer is trying to draw with his music. A version is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I and is 7.26 minutes long, but make sure that the students cannot see the video when you play it. They should only be able to hear the music.
Play the piece again, but this time, tell the students that it is called ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’. (If you are using the YouTube version, you can now reveal the video images, too.) Ask them to consider whether the music now makes them imagine a different picture.
Point out that, even if the first picture that they imagined wasn’t a picture of war, it is still a valid interpretation because it is what the music meant for them. Some things are open to interpretation.
Our bodies have five wonderful senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell. These receive information from the world around us and pass it to our brains. In turn, our brains build a picture of that world and enable us to live in it, move in it and enjoy it. However, our senses can be deceived, through illness, disability, drugs, alcohol, physical damage and so on. Then, we see a very different picture. So which is the real picture?
A person who has been born blind does not experience the world in the same way as those who are born with sight. Blind people see a different picture that their brains build. In addition, they can use another wonderful gift that we all have: imagination. Is such a picture less real than the picture that a sighted person sees? Blind people live in the world, move in it and enjoy it, too.
Hold up the cardboard box or tube. It is obvious what it is, but in the hands, mind and imagination of a child, it can become a spaceship, a submarine, a Jedi knight’s lightsabre or any number of other things. While that child plays with it, he or she can experience a whole world in the imagination and it is real for him or her. So maybe imagination is another type of sense through which we experience the world and build up a picture of reality.
Who can say what is real - that is, what is actually there outside us? Some animals do not see in colour, only in shades of grey, so where is colour? Is it in the minds of those who have the equipment to detect it?
That raises an interesting idea: perhaps there are things in the world that we cannot detect because we don’t have the necessary equipment to do so. However, just because we can’t detect something, it doesn’t mean that it can’t or doesn’t exist.
Some people talk of having a sixth sense, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that they might be right. It is dangerous to rule things out because we can’t yet experience them.
Time for reflection
Invite the reader to read the story of the transfiguration of Jesus in Mark 9.2-5.
Ask the following questions about the story.
- What happened?
- Who saw what?
- Does what was ‘seen’ depend on the already established beliefs of those who were present?
- Would any of us who had been there have seen the same thing?
It is tempting to refuse to believe in a world of the Divine, or God, or the supernatural because we can’t physically detect it. However, we must be careful not to refuse to believe something simply because the majority do not believe that it is true. The majority could be wrong!
We all need to keep an open mind and allow our imaginations to create a world for us beyond the obvious. Ask yourselves this question: ‘Do our senses adequately explain all that we experience in the world?’ If not, maybe God really does have an important place.
‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from The Planets suite by Holst, or your favourite piece of expressive music.