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Patterns: The Magic Eye

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

Back in the 1990’s computer generated visual “puzzles” – like the one above – became a thing. I still love staring into these “Magic Eye” images until my eyes do in fact become magical and see something that wasn’t on the surface at first. Some folks tell me they have never been able to make them work. All they ever see are the bright colors in the odd splotchy patterns. Then they look at me funny as though I’m trying to trick them into making fools of themselves.

Take a few moments now to stare deeply into (or beyond) the image above and tell me what you see. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s a celestial body. If you actually get it to work, you’ll be able to identify it.)

If it didn’t work for  you, I’m just going to tell it to you straight. There really is a “there” there!

Perhaps one of the reasons why I enjoyed staring at these images in the 1990’s was because that was a difficult decade for me. We made two significant geographic moves with our three kids. My husband changed jobs. He turned 40 in 1995. He was a bishop of a singles ward. My mother died. By the later part of the decade, all three kids were teenagers and my oldest went away to college. While the term “faith crisis” hadn’t been coined yet, I dealt with that phenomenon from a variety of angles. Each of these circumstances could (and in some cases did) provide funding for therapists’ exotic vacation travel funds.

So back then any time I could take a few minutes and put a book to my nose and stare until I saw something that wasn’t there, I would. It made me feel zenny somehow. Like how I imagine smoking pot might make me feel – but without the smoking and without the pot.

After a while I realized that I could see deeply – beyond the surface images that showed up as colorful splotches or, say, bunnies jumping through circus hoops – and the deeper image was often completely unrelated to the bunnies and hoops. Maybe there were suddenly dinosaurs or glorious butterflies or entwined hearts or the word “Peace” once I got to the deeper level.

THEN I realized that I could take that kind of “seeing” and apply it elsewhere. Sometimes things felt off or odd or out of place about my Church experience. (For example, “bunnies and hoops” could translate into the conundrum of why there weren’t yet changing tables in the men’s rooms in the ward building.) They were getting in the way of my seeing something deeper, and “realer” than the surface images. Sometimes being made aware of the disconnect urged me to action. (I am pleased to say I say I was part of the solution. There ARE now changing tables in every bathroom in that building.)

I developed a new pattern. I could metaphorically stare into or beyond a Church problem (like lack of parity in practice or principle, or issues of historicity, or problematic quotes from General Authorities, etc.) and hunt for deeper, more everlasting, 3-dimensional core ties that keep me tethered to the Gospel.

I spoke at a BYU Women’s Conference during that  difficult decade of the  1990’s. I was chatting with two friends after a session when Elder F. Enzio Busche (now an Emeritus General Authority) came up to us with his wife, Jutta. (They knew my friends.) Out of essentially nowhere, Elder Busche said (something like this), “The Church is the earthly structure through which we believers live the Gospel on the earth; it is the Gospel that is eternal and everlasting.”

That’s the pattern of vision I want to keep sharp. I want to see beyond mortal surface patterns – that can range from the sublime to the ridiculous – to see the deep, everlasting, immutable truths of the Gospel and base my actions on those. Parsing those distinctions can be tricky, but thanks in part to Magic Eye images with their peculiar patterns, I have hope, confidence and patience to keep at it.

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

3 thoughts on “Patterns: The Magic Eye”

  1. This is amazing. Thank you so much for this! I have struggled with the church, but yet I am devout. I have not been able to say, "I know the church is true" for about twenty years– because it isn't.. But the gospel is. Thank you for your wise words. I needed them.

  2. I'm one of those people who can't make magic eye pictures work. I had surgery on my eyes when I was 15 months old and I cannot cross my eyes at all. So I have to take every one else's word that there is something there. It's like having faith in someone else's testimony. I want to believe but I lack the ability to see. So I continue to believe.


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