Saturday, January 17, 2015
Matters of Taste 4 / Christians Stories and Art
This is a Van Gogh: "The Good Samaritan."
Van Gogh was a tremendous artist. His life was quite difficult and tragic, but so are many lives. No doubt, his difficulties helped his feeling and art. For example, he painted men and women together in unusual ways, reflecting his own desire for a life companion.
Here, we can see the extreme excretion by the helper to lend aid to the man who had been robbed, hurt, and left by the side of the road, passed by, by those who you would expect to come to his aid. The wounded man is completely dependent on the man who lifts him up. The strength is entirely the one of the "Savior".
Christianity is about both learning and doing. It shows us the world as it is, and how it could be better.
Are the stories, parables, images, art just about our emotional and "spiritual" experience of life? Is Christianity just the right system of philosophy? Does it just have the best metaphors? Is it just the most honest about our lost condition? Has it just produced the most sublime paintings?
Could we arrange our museums of art so that the works could be organized not by artist, time period, etc. but by human experience: loss, illness, helping, confession and absolution, joy, hope for the future... ? As was suggested by de Bottom in "Religion for Atheists"?
Christianity as an aesthetic expression of experience? What would be do with that? Can we live on aesthetic experience?
Aesthetic experience goes a long way. It makes life meaningful in that it points us higher. Any man who has ever been in prison, looks out to see a bush, a twig, a bird, anything to point him away from his prison. The smallest simplest thing, can point us somewhere else, outside of ourselves.
But what if there is no meaning beside the beauty of the art, the loveliness of the birdsong, the flower outside the window, the pleasures of many things. What if, there is only that. What does it point to?
No, it does not work. We must have the thing itself.
We cannot have Christian art without Christ himself.
We cannot have the beauty and idea of marriage without marriage itself.
(I think Wittgenstein was trying to say something like that, but with mathematical equations to be exact. -- A strange approach, I would say, for concepts of this nature.)