Truth, Beauty, and the Arts: A Reflection

piano guysThere is something about the piano and cello in the hands of musicians that makes the individual timbres of the instruments twine and meld into something amazingly beautiful that delights me every time I hear them. This particular cover is only one of several different cello/piano duets that I frequently listen to.

A friend recently mentioned to me that he is always amazed by how people can make their instruments speak volumes more than the people might ever say themselves. And I think part of it because when you play an instrument for the music…it allows you to open up. To be vulnerable and to express emotions even when you aren’t intentionally doing so. When a musician plays for the beauty of the music, and not just to give a public performance, the instrument becomes almost an extension of himself or herself.

Sort of like how a true warrior doesn’t just master a weapon. The weapon isn’t just a tool for that person. It becomes like a part of that person, a way for him or her to envelop himself or herself in the beauty that comes from the knowledge and art of that weapon’s use. There’s a reason that we call certain styles of fighting “martial arts.” They aren’t just processes and procedures. They are expressions of the warrior’s inner person.

Or how a true poet doesn’t just write words to make them rhyme and fall in certain patterns. In the hands and mind of a poet, the words become vessels of meaning. Packages of beauty, almost. Little quanticized bits of the poet’s vision of the world.

And that’s to say nothing of the artist. There is a reason that even the chaos and mediocrity of certain pieces of “modern art” deserves some respect. Not in the sense that we must all look at them and say, “This is beautiful.” We can respect them in the sense of understanding that some of these artists are not just seeking to throw random objects together to create something that sells. Some of them are truly giving us a snapshot of how they see the world around them. I used to dislike modern art. I still do in many cases. But I’ve learned that I can respect modern art without compromising my views on what is and is not pleasing. Because art doesn’t have to be beautiful or uplifting. It can be full of pain and grittily realistic. It can remind us that the world is not what it could have been. A true artist is open about how he or she sees the world. Whether that is seeing a world that is dark and implanting seeds of light into it, like Van Gogh did, or seeing a world that is crying and broken and that needs our attention, like so many artists and modern iconographers all over the world do.

The point of that entire exposition is that artists speak through their instruments and art because art isn’t just a performance. It is an exposition, a revelation. It can cut, and it can heal. It can laugh, and it can weep. It can sweep one into a world of beautiful hope, and it can remind one of a world of stark realism. And it can do all of these at the same time. Because beauty is like that. It is joy and pain, hope and suffering, wounding and healing, all at the same time. Beauty can be found wherever you look, because God created this world fundamentally beautiful and nothing that man or Satan can do will ever change that.

the semicolon project

Please, PLEASE read this. It is well worth the time it takes to read through it.

hpwritesblogs

FullSizeRender-1FullSizeRender Today I went to a tattoo artist, and for $60 I let a man with a giant Jesus-tattoo on his head ink a semi-colon onto my wrist where it will stay until the day I die. By now, enough people have started asking questions that it made sense for me to start talking, and talking about things that aren’t particularly easy.

We’ll start here: a semi-colon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going. 

In April I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. By the beginning of May I was popping anti-depressents every morning with a breakfast I could barely stomach. In June, I had to leave a job I’d wanted since I first set foot on this campus as an incoming freshmen because of my mental…

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Reflection

A common theme in movies, TV shows, and fiction stories today is the concept of being true to oneself, or of being whoever or whatever one desires to be. Everywhere one looks, one can see it–from kids’ movies (Brave and Tangled, anyone?) to popular series (Divergent, e.g.) to blogs and self-help books all over the country. This idea has become so universal that it has even infiltrated the Church on occasion–the so-called “prosperity gospel” being one example. It pervades our culture and impels people toward political activism, due to their desires to legalize and normalize whatever minority they might lie in.

It also distracts from the true form of community.

So deeply has this concept become embedded in society that it has begun to cripple the Church and, consequently, society in general. When one’s focus is on being “unique” and “genuine,” it is easy to lose sight of what one is called to be: a servant.

Not a powerful leader. Not an impressive pioneer. Not a trend-setting visionary.

A humble servant. That is the call of the Christian. It is the act of being not the conquering king everyone expects, but the lowly foot-washer that everyone needs. It is the act of not asking how high in the Kingdom one may rise, but of instinctively climbing down to the deepest bottom in order to help raise others up out of the darkness. It is the act not of preserving oneself to “prepare for later,” but of giving one’s all in the pursuit of the good of the Kingdom.

Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we dream it will go. Sometimes our desires and dreams must die one by one, sacrificed on the altar of sanctifying faith. Sometimes our views of who we are and what we could be must be denied in submission to our God-given identity and path. Sometimes that which we would choose for ourselves and that which God has chosen for us are the complete opposites . . . and every time, it is God’s will that must come first.

Lately, I have been having to very deeply question my personal views of what I see as my identity. To ask myself whether I see myself in the way the world desires to see me and the way I desire to see myself, or whether I instead see myself as who I am in God. If I choose the first way, then I can be many things, whoever I desire to be . . . but at the price of living a life with any sincerity and true meaning. If I choose the latter way, then I may also be many things, but they will be dictated by God’s will . . . and provide me a life well worth the living. It may be a hard life; it may be a life of pain; it may be a life in which I am constantly being called to sacrifice a significant aspect of myself in order to continue pursuing God’s will. But it is the path I have chosen to walk, and a life I am choosing to lead.

Being a servant isn’t easy. But then again . . . easy isn’t for Christians. The true Gospel doesn’t promise a life of prosperity and ease. It doesn’t promise that we will be allowed to openly embrace parts of ourselves that the world might encourage us to embrace. It doesn’t promise that we will be given any of our hearts’ desires. What it does promise us, though, is the mercy and love of God poured out liberally upon us. What it does promise us is lives that, even if we didn’t live them the ways we wanted to, we lived them in the ways we needed to. And in the long run, we will have lived and served the Kingdom in greater ways than we could ever imagine if we were to blindly pursue our dreams.

No Other Way

This week, the pastor of the church I go to chose to preach on the subject of the Great Commission and how we apply it in our own lives. As part of his introduction to the topic, he listed some of the many questions that Jesus asked the apostles, disciples, and people as He interacted with them: “What do you seek?” “What do you want from Me?” And especially, “Who do you say I am?”

As I thought about some of those incisive questions, I found my mind drawn to the question Jesus asks His disciples at one point in His ministry:

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.

(John 6.67-69, ESV)

The more I pondered Peter’s response, the more I came to realize that that response is also mine. While I can sometimes appear a bit apathetic and occasionally even doubtful about certain doctrines or the strength of certain areas of my faith, when all the external aspects are stripped away I cling desperately to Christ alone as the Holy Saviour.

Because without Him being who He says He is, there is no point for me to continue trying. Without the moral compass that He has laid down, I would be adrift in the ethical morass that defines this world. Without the assurance of significance and discreteness that He provides, I would be fully vulnerable and constantly fighting the existential doubts that still frequently attempt to pull me down. Without the hope and vision that He provides, I would be dead from despair and apathy. Without the grace and inner regeneration that He is working in me, I would be a burnt-out husk, incapable of social interaction and compassion.

To me, the reality of Jesus, and the reality of His being Who He says He is, is paramount to my continued existence. In a very crucial way, He defines my motivation for continuing on and not giving up. For not allowing myself to cease to exist. For being willing to make sacrifices for those I care for and to help take the blows that life aims at them. If I ever choose to reject the reality of my God and Savior, then I am dead. Not just in the sense of spiritual death. A day in which I turn away from God with the uttermost core of my being is a day on which I will cease to continue living physically as well. Because if I reject Him, I will have nothing left, for there is nothing outside of Him that is worth living for.

A lot of people talk about there being many different ways to get to God. Personally, I don’t believe that such a thing is possible. I am a person who likes as many options as I can get. But I cannot accept that there are options in approaching God . . . because to accept that is to say that God is not unique (Deuteronomy 5, John 3). To say that morals do not matter (Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 10). To say that our existence, our choices, and our destinies are not significant to Him (Psalm 139, Romans 8). To say that it does not matter whether we hold others in equal esteem with ourselves (Matthew 7, John 15). If these are not truths we hold to, what is there left to hold on to in life?

There is no other way. There is no other way. There is only one way, one way that I cling to, because it is the only way that promises me life. There is nowhere else for me to turn.