Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.
— Pope John Paul II, The Meaning of Vocation
Artists, don’t be deceived.
Beauty is not ours, my friends. Beauty is given to us. The act of creating is only a participation in the larger act of the eternally creative Master of the Universe! We are His little kids, scribbling and scrawling to our hearts’ content, and He watches on with delight and affection. Nothing we do will ever compare — we can only reflect the imagination and perfection of the Creator.
One of my classes this semester is the study of aesthetics, especially in a global context. It becomes a very philosophical thing, to study “aesthetics” and “art,” for both are caught in a dance of opinion. What is beauty? Does it have to be beautiful to be art? Really, the questions are endless… and I’m looking forward to an entire semester (or more!) of thinking about the significance of art, especially for myself.
As I was reading for class last week, I found myself staring into space in quiet disagreement with what I was reading.
“[John] Dewey believes, and I agree with him, that ‘art’ does not refer to products of nature, but only artifacts. One reason for saying this is suggested by the phrase ‘work of art.’ There must be a person who worked on something before something can be a work. A rock may be quite lovely—smooth, delicately colored, gracefully curved—but we say it is a ‘work of nature’ only metaphorically. A rock can become a work of art only if someone—an artist—is responsible (at least in part) for the way it looks.”
Basics in Aesthetics, Eaton, p15
Whoaaa now. Talk about denial of the existence of the Creator! What a blessing it is to know that our God has plan, purpose, and vision for every thing created. He created it! He did, indeed, work. Interesting, isn’t it? A simple statement about the very basics of art and creativity, but a very simply denial that the things around us have a beginning and a Creator.
No wonder we have the most difficult time understanding the most simple truths! Each of us was created and has purpose — it is the basis for understanding who we are and why we are here! But if we deny that the things around us were also created with intention and purpose, we lose the foundation for that very basic understanding. It is the root of all our confusion and our despair.
The one thing that led me to understand my existence and purpose was the Theology of the Body. It was briefly introduced to me in casual conversation, but the explanation led me to the teachings — to a depth of wisdom that collides heaven and earth, spiritual and physical, into a single, cohesive perspective. I know who I am because I know my Creator. And in writing it, Blessed John Paul II starts with Creation!!
This world is not an accident. Creation is not an accident. There is an Artist responsible for all that exists, and the intrinsic beauty of it all doesn’t really depend on our opinion, experience, or interpretation. A ‘work of nature’ is truly a work of God, it is a work of perfection!
Pope Benedict said a couple weeks ago, “Art is capable of making visible our need to go beyond what we see and it reveals our thirst for infinite beauty, for God.”
Choose to believe that beauty is not “in the eye of the beholder.” It isn’t about opinion. Beauty is all around us! It is in nature, in people, in the differences of our personalities and circumstances, in our struggles, our emotions, in everything. We choose to see beauty, we choose to embrace it, and we are blessed when we do.
photo: Pinterest, via A. Spencer
I have lived in Texas every summer of my life. Sometimes, I am sure this is purgatory on earth, or at least a forewarning of how much hotter it will be in hell. (A statement pointed enough to suffice for an entire homily for Aggie Catholics a couple summers ago!) Other times, I think this must be God’s way of convincing me to move somewhere else… a place where they enjoy all four seasons, and summer doesn’t drag on forever. Lately, though, I’ve found myself being thankful for the summer and the sun, for more reasons than long days, swimming pools, and not-pasty skin.
It’s surprisingly easy to get acclimated to the heat if you’re outside enough. Even after working at a summer camp the past two years, I’m shocked to hear myself admit that it’s not as bad when you get used to it—I literally wore my hair in a ponytail every day until the seventh grade because I was always so miserably hot if I wore it down. I have never claimed to be someone who loves summer… I am far more of a cold weather person, and I know it. So, when I was looking at the weather this weekend, and realized that it wasn’t supposed to get above 90 degrees here next week, I was thrilled. Until I got nervous.
I think I learned to love the heat this summer. It was 110 degrees, I was sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat, and I was loving it. I know, I sound like a crazy person. I got used to it and comfortable in it, even as uncomfortable as it usually was. Now that I’m back to the “real life” of living inside, I get cabin fever really easily. I miss feeling the sun on my skin, and I miss that almost-stifling warmth of summer heat radiating off the ground. I miss smelling the rain before it arrived and watching the dawn creep up over the trees. Living in it made me love it!
There is one thing I don’t have to miss. Even if I’m only outside for a few minutes, there is always that feeling of being totally enveloped in heat. As I was praying in the adoration chapel last week, I asked God to reveal Himself to me in the simple things in my life. (I’m convinced that if we increase our awareness of His presence, we automatically increase our awareness of our call to holiness. But that’s for another post!) The thought that kept returning to me was about the heat and how God wants me to know Him through it. So I started thinking…