“Art has to endow all the objects with which man naturally surrounds himself – a house, a fountain, a drinking vessel, a garment, a carpet – with the perfection each object can posses according to its own nature. Islamic art does not add something alien to the objects that it shapes; it merely brings out their essential qualities.”
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This just makes me smile!!! My son said today that he was a pirate king and I told him, “There’s a song about that!”
In his essay “The Catholic Writer Today,” published in the December 2013 issue of First Things, Dana Gioia questions the lack of influence that such a large number of Catholics have on the arts of our country. Speaking as a former chairman for the NEA and as a Catholic he delves into both what has been, what the problem is now and what ought to be. Here are a few quotes taken out of the whole:
What has been:
The religious insights usually emerge naturally out of depictions of worldly existence rather than appear to have been imposed intellectually upon the work.
One of the problems:
In literature, at least, the Catholic media no longer command sufficient cultural power to nominate or effectively support what is best from its own community. Has this situation disturbed Catholic leaders? Not especially. The Catholic subculture seems conspicuously uninterested in the arts.
What absorbs the Catholic intellectual media is politics, conducted mostly in secular terms—a dreary battle of right versus left for the soul of the American Church.
If American Catholicism has become mundane enough to be consumed by party politics, perhaps it’s because the Church has lost its imagination and creativity.
The broader problem:
The collapse of Catholic literary life reflects a larger crisis of confidence in the Church that touches on all aspects of religious, cultural, and intellectual life. What I have said so far also pertains, in general terms, to all American Christians. Whatever their denomination, they have increasingly disengaged themselves from artistic culture. They have, in effect, ceded the arts to secular society.
The schism between Christianity and the arts has had two profound consequences, two vast impoverishments—one for the arts world, the other for the Church.
What ought to be:
A vigorous culture contains different voices, often in active debate. The voice of religious faith enlarges and enlivens the overall dialectic of culture, even among non-believers, just as the voice of secular society keeps religious writers more alert and intelligent.
The real challenge is not in the number of participants but in the arrival of a few powerful innovators who can serve as cultural catalysts. Two great poets are stronger than two thousand mediocrities.
Art educates our emotions and imagination. It awakens, enlarges, and refines our humanity. Remove it, dilute it, or pervert it, and a community or a nation suffers—becoming less compassionate, curious, and alert, more coarse, narrow, and self-satisfied.
A Catholic writer must also have hope.Hope in the possibilities of art and one’s own efforts. Hope in the Church’s historical ability to change as change is needed. The main barrier to the revival of Catholic writing and the rapprochement of faith and the arts is despair, or perhaps more accurately acedia, a torpid indifference among precisely those people who could change the situation—Catholic artists and intellectuals. Hope is what motivates and sustains the writer’s enterprise because success will come slowly, and there will be many setbacks.
The goal of the serious Catholic writer is the same as that of all real writers—to create powerful, expressive, memorable works of art. As Flannery O’Connor observed, “The Catholic novelist doesn’t have to be a saint; he doesn’t even have to be a Catholic; he does, unfortunately, have to be a novelist.” The road to Damascus may offer a pilgrim sudden and miraculous intervention, but faith provides no shortcuts on the road to Parnassus.
The Catholic writer must have the passion, talent, and ingenuity to master the craft in strictly secular terms while never forgetting the spiritual possibilities and responsibilities of art. That is a double challenge, but it does ultimately offer a genuine advantage.
1. The arts show us the possibility of transformation, sometimes art is made from the most unlikely sources
2. Even the worst can be woven into God’s purposes
3. Art reveals the interplay between the given (tradition) and the unexpected (the response to the occasion)
Despite the worst of entropy
A bean will burst in ecstasy
A lumbar leap
Invisible, yet constant flight
“Is it okay to pretend to be Jesus?” my daughter asked yesterday. There are so many ways to answer this question . . . where to begin? Kids ask the most penetrating questions. Play is the way a child learns. How wonderful that she loves the stories of Jesus and wants to pretend them!
It was Palm Sunday that provoked this question. In our church we proceed to the front and take our palms and then march around the rest of the church to our seats. It’s a real way in which the entire congregation makes art together. We are singing and acting and in a way dancing. We are enacting the truest performance art because it is real and not merely pretense. We aren’t deciding on arbitrary symbols and sloshing them around to add volume to the latest social trend. We are simply and humbly doing something that’s been done for hundreds of years, remembering a story that really happened. In this reenactment we bind the past, our present and the future. We do it every year. Now with children I see the power of this simple act, this simple repetitive play.
I answered her clumsily, but it was something like this, “the pastor pretends to be Jesus every Sunday. When he turns toward the alter it is like he is us and when he turns towards us it is like he is God. When he gives us the wine and the bread it is like he is being Jesus.” I had just been sitting in catechism class and this image was fresh in my mind.
The profound connection between drama and liturgy has long been observed. If a priest can act as Christ in church, then why not a morality play on a wooden cart outside of the church? Why not a movie?
I asked my daughter again tonight, “What do you think about that question you asked me? Is it okay to pretend to be Jesus?” “I don’t think so.” She answered, “God is real and we shouldn’t joke about God. If I pretend to be God I might joke about him because I get silly when I play.” She was reasoning out the answer from previous conversations. We don’t exactly follow the rule of St. Benedict in our house about not speaking useless words, “or words that move to laughter.” We kind of laugh A LOT. I do however draw the line at joking about certain things like: our love for one another, God, electricity, fire and the busy road outside. This has landed us into a sort of primitive reverence for these things: God, true love and forces of power and danger. It has also led me to wonder, are we teaching them that God is more like the danger of fire or like true love? I hope both.
I still don’t have a neat and tidy answer to this question. It teases opens so many other areas of consideration, but I want to keep pondering. Any thoughts?
In our secular age, the liberal arts represent the last, best hope of ennobling democracy, of liberating us from absorption in the present, of raising our gaze above ourselves, without which we risk sinking below the level of the beasts. – See more at: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2014/04/the_liberal_arts_are_in_troubl.html#sthash.rFj4bUsa.dpuf