Looking For, And Finding God In the Arts!
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. – Psalm 150
I was “youtube-ing” through some classical music sites recently and found a beautiful video of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, conducted by Karajan at the Berlin Philharmonic. Watching Karajan’s face and gestures, it was clear that he was transported by the power, the sweep and the majesty of the music, that it took him beyond himself.
Ian Morgan Cron, in his book, “Chasing Francis”, has one of his characters say, “My teacher once told me that artists help people to see or hear beyond the immediate to the eternal. Most people look only at surfaces. A great poem, story, song, or sculpture reveals the hidden meaning of things.” Great art, then, points us to something else, not just beauty, but to the source of beauty. “All beauty is subversive; it flies under the radar of people’s critical filters and points them to God.” Ian Morgan Cron.
As I was listening to that beautiful symphony, I scrolled through some of the comments written by others who had also watched this video and found this: “I’m not at all religious, but if someone was ever to “convert” me, it would be through art. There are some works that are so sublime, like this one, that it almost seems impossible to have been made by the same species that has committed the most hideous crimes in the history of the planet.” Here is someone who has encountered the truth through this particular piece of music. He has come face to face with the paradox of humanity. In the midst of his transcendent joy in listening to this work of art, he is also saddened by the failure of humanity he sees in history. It is when we choose to defy our nature that great and manifold ugliness is born.
When we lose sight of the truth it is precisely because we have focused only on the immediate surface of things and the immediate surface of things is often tarnished. That is why we need great art in our lives. It takes us below the surface of things and reveals our truer, most natural capacity and desire for beauty. The great works of art point us, then, toward that which is greater than ourselves, God.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.