Art vs. Ugly


I listen to Cold Play reluctantly.  The haunting beauty of “For some reason I can’t explain, I know St. Peter won’t call my name,” compels me to explain this listening to myself.

It’s as though against all evidence, as he sees it, he’s determined to create beauty in the face of hopelessness.

I admire this.  Often “artists” express their angst at ugliness via more ugliness.  The true artist, however, shows us the beauty of God, even if he professes unbelief, or at least extreme uncertainty of God’s existence.

The existence of music, such as that of Cold Play, is proof of God.  Proof of Love, Mystery, Enchantment.  Our hearts yearn for the truth of the unseen, the “unprovable.”  We long to be enchanted.  As Thomas Moore says in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, “”Enchantment invites us to pause and be arrested by whatever is before us.”

Last night I was arrested by God’s pencil drawings.  The evening clouds were charcoal lines and swirls, as lovely as though spirits had left ballerina leaps and twirls.  Leafless aspen were grey lace against a pale silver sky, and I was reminded that even to those of us who love all things bright and beautiful, there is beauty in the quieter, the more still, the subtle.  There is a cry for resurrection in the cold and the not quite yet dead.

Would the aspen leaf out again in spring if we didn’t expect and decree and celebrate their doing so?  The calculating mind says, “Yes, of course.  Don’t be ridiculous.  It’s their nature.”

But I say they will do so because it’s God’s nature.  Doesn’t God want to be seen and heard and heralded and rejoiced over?  Doesn’t God want to bless us?  And if we are His, don’t we want to bless the world, to beautify it?

There is art in listening attentively to a child’s meandering story, and in such “mundane” activities as lovingly dusting wooden furniture, or making a cup of tea for a lover.  All of life is, or can be, art.

God has put in every one of us that desire and ability to show Him to the world.  But when we focus on the ugly, when we create more of the same – music without melody, fiction without romance, paintings with polluted colors and lines, words without sweetness – we are saying that ugly is truth.

Ugly is a lie.  Let’s not tell it.


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