Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Your Beauty in Our World

For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Isaiah 52:15

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I had to look it up.  Apparently it first appeared in the third century, BC, in Greek.  Then made its way through literature in various forms, until it showed up as a line in Molly Brown, a book written in 1878, by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.  Fascinating?  Probably not for everyone.  But I love words.  I like the way they're crafted.   I even like to pull them apart - find their pieces - those little morphemes of meaning - that knit together into the thing, the description, the action.  I like the precision of grammar - I like the ambiguity.  I am fascinated by language, verbal and non-verbal communication - written communication.  Taking an idea, an emotion, a story, that's hidden inside the head or heart and making it accessible to the world.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  True.  

We teach it to our kids in school.  Schema.  Background knowledge and experience.  You have to bring your schema to bear in reading for comprehension.  There has to be an anchor to hook new information to - to hold when swimming in new ideas and new information.  There has to be context to bump up understanding.  It works across the board - in all subjects.  Use what you know to learn what you need to know.  Inference - combine the knowledge in your head with the knowledge you are accessing.  You wouldn't think we'd need to teach it - no, it's more like we need to make students aware that they are using it - schema - background knowledge - based on experience and prior learning.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Yes.

Surrounded everyday by images and videos.  On the television.  In magazines.  My fifth-graders knew about WWII because of a video game.  I don't even know which one - google video game WWII and you get a list that scrolls off the computer screen.  For awhile.  Clothing manufacturers strive to have multi-national models.  Shiny new cars rev around the mudflats; big trucks climb mountains and ford rivers; successful clydesdales form everlasting friendships with long-lost trainers and encourage their up-and-coming offspring.  Cyber players in chrome armor jump and dance at the corners of our football broadcasts - game warriors of the future.  Entire movies are created with computer-generated graphics.  We are inundated by digital reality - idealistic reality.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As is truth.  And faith.  And belief.

There's a story about a little girl in Sunday school, drawing a picture of God.  Her Sunday school teacher points out that she can't draw a picture of God.  No one has ever seen God.  No one knows what God looks like.  The little girl looks up at her teacher, then down at her drawing, then back up and replies in a voice-of-little-girl-wisdom,  "Well, they'll know in a minute."

In high school, I was fortunate to have had an English teacher who was transparently passionate about literature and writing.  His enthusiasm infected many of my peers, me included.  He left our school, right after my graduation, to teach at a Christian College, and to write.  Prolifically.  Christian stories - short and long.  I still follow his blog.  Several years ago, I rediscovered him.  I googled him and found a list of essays and titles.  One of his essays resonated with me.  How, he asks, can a Christian writer overcome the issue of characters and situations that aren't necessarily Christian.  Believable characters have flaws, some are truly evil.  Life situations revolve around choices - the road less traveled versus the way of the world.  A writer needs to understand - needs to have schema - to access these characters, to create these situations.  How can they also be Christian?  Living in the world - writing of the world.

I just finished reading an article about Christian art.  You can read it here.  There are several phrases that stick in my head.  Art points us toward eternity; it re-imagines and re-expresses the beauty of God, lifting our sights and changing our vision of reality.  One artist, Ruth Naomi Floyd, speaks of facing the darkness while still believing in the light - like my English professor - sensing God's silence and sorrow.  Another artist, Makoto Fujimura, in discussing art as evangelism, goes into the gospel itself:  The gospel is life. The gospel is about the Creator God, who is an artist, who is trying to communicate. And his art is the church. We are the artwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works. If we don't realize that fully, then the gospel itself is truncated and art itself suffers.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And understanding.  And illumination.  Our eyes, our vision, the sum total of our lifetime of experience and information.  In an age of information.  Being Christian is a responsibility.  Who we are by what we do.  In art, in words and in actions.  We are Christ's representatives.  In second Corinthians, Paul writes about this very thing.  The world we live in cannot define who we are, cannot define our perception of beauty.  Instead, we must access divine power, divine strength and wisdom, to fight - right against wrong - light against darkness - evil against good.  Without recognizing and acknowledging the things of this world, how can we ever defeat them?  To find the beauty.  To find God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for artists and writers, actors and dancers who sometimes lead us into the darkness of this world - then through your divine strength and help, guide us back to your light.  Thank you for the gospel of art.  Thank you for the gift of these brave men and women who express our doubts and our failings - who show us hope and faith.  Hold them close and keep them safe within Your hand, beneath the wings of Your angels.  Help us all to understand the things that have influenced our eyes and ears, things that have molded our comprehension; help us to make sense of bombarding information.  Help us to find Your beauty in our world.  

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