Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Arts

(Please imagine me standing on a dark stage, with a single white spotlight illuminating me. I'm talking in a deep, somber voice, sounding very serious.)

"I am an artist."

(I pause, look at various points of the audience, and continue speaking, slowly, one phrase at a time, in that voice that always denotes something important.)

"My job, in society, is to share ideas, perspectives, thoughts, things in ways you haven't seen before. Through this, it is my hope, and intention, of helping move you, and society, indeed all of civilization, towards something better, bigger, broader, more beautiful than before."

(Don't you like that alliteration? It just came naturally to me.) (Oh, sorry. I don't mean to interrupt me. I'll try not to do it again.)

"Society is like a line, drawn back through history, looking at the world through a single lens. It is the artist who moves off to the side, views reality from a different vantage point, and reports back what they have witnessed."

(George Takei in some of his more recent roles. That's the voice I'm hoping you hear. Deep. Slight British accent, even though he's not British. Perhaps cultured is the word I want. Like a professor explaining something  to his students.) (Oh, sorry. I interrupted me again. My apologies.)

"When you see something from a single point, the effect of parallax is lost. The world becomes two-dimensional, loses its depth, becomes, shall we say, more dangerous. Without depth, you miss things. You more easily run into objects. You can get hurt. And there is a sad loss of context.

"With the artist, things regain perspective. Depth is added once more. Things you never dreamed of are revealed.

"But. There is a caution. The artist must be able to report back so that the audience can follow. If not, they are deemed crazy. Their work is scorned. Discounted. Dismissed. They can, at times, be deemed a danger. This can have drastic results. Stravinsky, for example, discovered this in Paris, in 1913, May 29th. This was the same time that 'Abdu'l-Baha, Himself, was in Paris."

(I didn't actually know that. I googled the date of the premiere of the Rite of Spring, just out of curiosity, and was struck by it. It seemed familiar. A quick search in "'Abdu'l-Baha in Their Midst" showed that the dates coincided. Kind of cool, that.)

Let me step back for a moment. Back to my regular voice.

There is so much written about the arts in the Baha'i Writings, and the importance of them. When I was letting the above words flow down, it occurred to me just how similar the role of the artist is to that of the Messenger of God, although on the micro scale, not the macro. When depth is lost, and things lose their context, that is when the Messenger appears.

While we all know that famous line from the Master, "Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children...", how many of us know the rest of it? "...(A)nd the promotion of the various sciences, crafts and arts." He goes on, in that same passage, to say, "The more ye persevere in this most important task, the more will ye witness the confirmations of God, to such a degree that ye yourselves will be astonished." He calls the teaching of the sciences and arts "the unshakeable foundation".

As with all things spiritual, there are many themes or concepts that we find are just not expressible in words. For that, the arts will often serve better. Once again, that elusive fourth Valley comes to mind.

But just this morning, the initial impetus for this article, I saw a short video that perfectly expressed this, and I will leave it with you for your consideration in how it applies to the teaching of the Faith.

(If you can't see the video, try clicking here.)

1 comment:

  1. Couldnt see the vid but omg loved what you wrote! And i definetly feel confirmed by it. I'mtaking an aestetics class and Schopenhauer says sorta the same thing, that science is a never ending horizontal line, and art is a vertical line that intersects at one single point, allowing the viewer to experience what the artistic genious does. I've also really been trying to figure out what crazy is vs inspiration, cause I'm diagnosed bipolar. Schopenhauer's explanation of artistic genious and inspiration sound pretty similar to bipolar disorder to me, but i'd definitely rather think i'm a genious :) even if i can't spell so good :P great blog, i loved it!! Thanks so much for some baha'i perspective!