The art of possibility

When I look around my home, at the art on the walls, it is obvious nothing here matches. The desire is to jam as many different paintings and prints on the wall space as possible. The same for my office. Recently a member of the church I serve came in to see me and observed, “For a minimalist you sure have a lot of art on your walls”. He was right. My one desire is to see as many different images as often as possible. Unlike books, files and other trappings of work, what I need to be fully human is art, specifically art that inspires me to think about possibilities, to use my God-given imagination.

The more I think about it the more I realize what I take from my interactions with art. At core I am a realist, in theological terms I am what some might call Neo-Orthodox or a Christian Realist, in political terms I am a red tory. I tend to understand the world as a non-perfect place, there is sin and evil and limits to human potential. Not taking this reality into account leads to plans that do not work, a vision for the future that is impossible to implement, a goal for life most humans can never achieve. Dreamers leave me cold, the song “Imagine” never did anything for me. It all seems so disconnected from who we really are which is flawed and yet fascinating.

The art I am drawn to reveals this limit, this flaw, this darker reality yet points to a way forward that while not a utopia is pregnant with possibility for a better way. In the midst of the pain and hardship are shards of glass that reflect a bright future. This reflection of the light may not be a glass cathedral but it is a beautiful and inspiring array of light that attracts humans to a goal that is achievable, indeed that seems to fulfill some deeper human aspirations.

If you look at the scars of evil and pain and see in them a pick axe that digs deep into the soul opening up the possibility for compassion, empathy and action the reality of our world ceases to be a choice between despair and denial. Rather than look at the world and say, nothing good can come here, give up and limit one’s self to one’s own private affairs or say, I will consciously pretend that sin and evil do not exist and instead try to create a Fairy-tale world where greed, hate and selfishness can be permanently dispensed with, a Christian Realist would say, how can we create beauty, understanding and peace in world that is not perfect, indeed one where our imperfections make us more humble, compassionate and understanding?

Possessions do not assist me in this quest. None of the things in my professional files makes this quest any easier. Being a minister I realize the only thing that gives me any voice at all in this quest is access to the people who attempting to make sense of their brokenness. Listening, watching, caring about these people, living in community, is what gives me a voice in this conversation. That is why I find the trappings of church; gowns, collars, titles, professionalism, so distracting from the quest to hear these powerful voices, to touch this courageous action, to see this reflected beauty. Art is one way to see this beauty and artists who use their experience, who are honest about their pain and limits, who link their pain to the compassion and possibility for others, help me make sense of my world.

In possessions less is more, in art, more is more.