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                                                       Studio Journal


    Worship Beauty?

    Have you ever given any thought to the possibility that the worship of beauty is an accusation lodged by those who do not understand the communion with God that happens when people create?   Having been accused of doing so by a fundamentalist priest with a power agenda formed the basis of this intellectual examination. 

    I have been trying to figure out why beauty is something to fear, the object of accusation, a slur.  Does anyone ever fear the worship of truth or goodness?  Is there any greater insult than to judge that another worships beauty, not God?  Obviously the Puritans realized the power of the accusation.

    Alas, I may have found my defender. 

    Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (d. 1988) thought that the beautiful is the first point of insight by which one perceives God’s revelation, and that God’s appearance in the world is analogous to the aesthetical encounter.   In The Glory of th Lord, A Theological Aesthetic, he wrote: 

    "We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past — whether he admits it or not — can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love" (p. 18).




    Claiming Art of Today

    In a sacred Buddhist text entitled The Book of Tea,  Japanese art historian and curator Okakura Kakuzo explained the  philosophical and aesthetic background of the tea ceremony.  It is a treasure of provacative thought covering much more than tea (link to text can be found in Inspiration/Historical References).  There he wrote:

    "The claims of contemporary art cannot be ignored in any vital scheme of life. The art of to-day is that which really belongs to us: it is our own reflection. In condemning it we but condemn ourselves. We say that the present age possesses no art:--who is responsible for this? It is indeed a shame that despite all our rhapsodies about the ancients we pay so little attention to our own possibilities. Struggling artists, weary souls lingering in the shadow of cold disdain! In our selfcentered century, what inspiration do we offer them? The past may well look with pity at the poverty of our civilisation; the future will laugh at the barrenness of our art. We are destroying the beautiful in life. Would that some great wizard might from the stem of society shape a mighty harp whose strings would resound to the touch of genius."

    One might be surprised to know that this was written in 1904.   

    "[W]eary souls lingering in the shadow of cold disdain" reminds me of VVG's  "wisp of smoke"  and mine and Jackson Browne's pretender. 

    I suppose t'was ever thus.


    Art As Plug-in

    I came across the following quotation by John A. Hiigli:  

    " Indeed art is fundamental : to science, mathematics and to language.

    Unfortunately theorists, educators, parents and administrators have

    not fully understood its importance, relegating it to a secondary role,

    or that of an add on. "

    I have been amazed at the number of people who secretly paint, sketch, write poetry...people I never would have imagined expressing their thoughts in such a manner.  I have now started searching for these kindred souls, and I find them because I am an excellent "chatter" and have my mother's gift for asking a dozen questions before you realize it. 

     Every now and then I run across one of these closet artists, and I have come to believe that art is, indeed, a plug-in one might add to his or her identity only when forced.   Sometimes I wonder if the artistic dimension is kept secret due to lack of confidence; or is it lack of audience?  I tend to think the latter is more likely the reason.   

    Maybe I don't run in good circles - I don't know - but I find that the reality of artistic expression is often a matter best kept close to one's chest because the reaction - no, that would actually be the lack of reaction - is too painful.  Art?  Condescending smile accompanying no interest...isn't that nice she has a little hobby...the society in which I live has an attitude that art is something that is a little bit of a waste of time, maybe something one does when "real life" does not intrude.

    And what is this "real life" that is of primary importance to the soul of the society in which I live?  I'm not sure.  Probably the visible life of  "The Pretender" (he who, when the morning light comes streaming in, gets up and does it again).   Going to work, watching TV, buying groceries, paying bills, keeping the grass cut, raising children, obssessing over children, being polite and very similar to everyone else.  

    I feel sorry for closet artists.  Everyone may know the color of their shutters, the make of their cars, the state of their marriages, the ages of their children, but no one will ever know their interior seasons of red or blue or the shimmer of light knocking around in their souls.  But then again, no one will get close enough to  quinch their spirit.  Vincent Van Gogh said it this way:

    "There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke."
    Jackson Browne and I say it this way:  "Say a prayer for the pretender, who started out so young and strong only to surrender." 
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