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The Tyrannizing Image

The tyrannizing image—what is it? To put it simply, the tyrannizing image is that image that points us toward what we ought to be. It may be found in another person, a character in a story, the subject of a painting, etc. It is an image that reminds us of our true nature, our true purpose, our true humanity. Christ is, of course, the ultimate Image, but we find other examples that make up the tyrannizing image in characters like Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, Dante, King Arthur, and even real-life heroes, like Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, our favorite athletes or presidents.

The tyrannizing image—what does it mean to be tyrannizing? It tyrannizes for it reminds us of what we are not yet. “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is a tyrannizing reminder that I am not yet holy. We do not like that. We do not usually want to be told we are less than we are supposed to be.

Yet, we place the tyrannizing image before us regularly. This recently struck me while watching The Crown. In one of my favorite episodes, Princess Margaret desires to marry a divorced man, but the royal family, the Crown, and the Church of England do not allow the marriage. In a telling scene, the would-be-husband discusses the marriage with the Queen’s assistant. (This is, at least, my memory of that scene.) He tells the assistant that the Queen et al. are behind the times. Everyone in England wants them to get married, and the Queen needs to get on board. The assistant responds by telling him the people do want them to marry—until they do marry—then they’ll hate them for it.

The people—whoever they are, and wherever or whenever they might be—find the image tyrannizing, so they want that image to “break the rules” or “change the rules” and “come down” to their level. Until they do, then the people get angry, frustrated that the image no longer points them toward the ideal—no longer reveals what they ought to be, but leaves them, rather, right where they are. And deep down inside, we don’t want to be left there; we want to become like Christ, we just don’t want to go through the act of becoming.

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