Today I'm going to reflect on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay XII: ART. You may read this essay here if you wish.
Emerson always stirs me up. He shares that the soul is on a journey. It's not a static thing. Artists look out on this would and see the unseen. We see the light in this moment that will be lost forever if we do not capture it. We don't only see the surface of the world, but also the character of the world, especially when we turn the vision on ourselves and try to reveal ourselves through art. No mechanical device can capture what the human mind perceives -- we are attempting to interpret that spark of life we sense and place it on our canvases, in our songs, our dances, our stories, in our every form of expression. We are capturing our moment in time.
The art of every age is a reflection of more that just what is seen but the unseen. If you want to know what is going on in your culture, what are the signs of the times, look at what artists are producing. They can't help but let what is going on in their world seep in and shape what they are creating. That said, there is an inherent understanding in artists that we are an expression of this vast Universe -- an imperfect picture of the glory that we perceive. There is no other creature on Earth that is so desiring to interpret what they perceive. We feel the invisible undercurrents and bring the invisible to the forefront. When we create our art and then consider it, we always find things that we didn't intend and that takes our breath away.
Art has a big purpose in the course of human history. It's the thread that reveals who we are and what we want. We are not unconnected with the art that has gone before us. I think about the explosion of superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories in our days as a good example of this. These stories are extensions of the human journey of myth. I feel an undercurrent in them that we very much all looking beyond our times, staring into the void and wanting to be much more than we are now. We are also wrestling with "villains" so great that they boggle the mind. Also a perception is evident: a desire to do good will triumph, It will overcome the darkness.
Does this seem like our world?
So what does all this mean to me personally? When art is making me uncomfortable, making me squirm in my seat, I must take note, especially when art slips away from a pursuit of beauty. I consider our larger world and reflect about what darkness looms. I cannot help but respond. For me I am searching for the good and lovely of my times and seasons. I hunger for every voice to be heard. I want to find beauty and holiness in new ways. I want to be brave and earnest and see what springs up from my heart. This is my prayer. My heart's cry. My deep hope. I hope that you join me on this journey.
I will be back next week with more golden advice.
Here is a quote for your pocket:
Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.