More and more, the stories of our world are narrated through film rather than text, and we can use lectio divina to contemplate difficult images on the news, on our social media feeds, and in documentary and feature films. Such scenes may disturb us, and when they do, we have the option to turn the channel, look away, scroll down, or walk out. They may represent realities remote from our daily lives but familiar to others’ lives. Footage of police violence against young black men or cruel conditions at factory farms — we fear these scenes will call up unpleasant emotions or force us to confront truths that unsettle our assumptions.
But these unfamiliar and difficult scenes also have the power to boost our empathy, to make us more connected to others — if we take them in. Following is a practice you can use to approach a disturbing scene you would rather avoid.
1. Select a 3 - 7 minute clip you initially felt like evading.
2. Before selecting play, use an image to help your body, mind, and spirit open to discomfort. (I like to imagine water being poured into my body and flowing through my limbs.)
3. Watch the video and take note of what stands out. Where do you feel resonance and resistance?
4. Watch the video a second time to connect the image to yourself. Ask yourself: What about who I am, where I am, and experiences I've had makes these elements of the film impactful?
5. Watch the video a third time to reflect on what the film is asking you to do.
6. To bridge the distance between yourself and the difficult material, complete this sentence: I had never considered/realized ... until I saw ... because I ...— Julia Davis