I have a lot of unformed, half-finished thoughts in my mind. Generally what happens is that my brain is forced to move on before an idea is fully cooked, and the overload is not so much a plethora of thoughts, but insufficient time to develop the few good ones.
I’ll think this thing right here has something to do with what I heard/saw/read/thought earlier…but the connection won’t quite form. How does this relate to that?
It’s similar to how we all have walked into a room not knowing why, not remembering what we were after. Stop. Pause for a moment. It will come to you. But if someone or something comes along to divert your recollection, it may be hours before it hits you, and by then, it’s probably not even important anymore.
My son was looking through an art book the other day and I stopped him at Rembrandt’s painting Joseph’s Sons. We’re not experts on art; we have books, we look at them, read a little blurb here and there, and check our “art” box on the schedule. Done and done. Art is one of those things I choose an ignorant appreciation of. I don’t know enough to be a critic.
I do know there are themes and styles and mediums artists stick to, connections you see throughout their work. Rembrandt used light and shadows to paint a full picture. I noticed this in Joseph’s Sons.
My son noticed something different in the painting.
I believe we should study to find beauty, not just facts. The truth about life is better viewed through something beautifully created than the rough lectures we dole out as parents and teachers. Lay down the truth next to the beauty and focus on the spots they intersect. They will cross paths, truth and beauty. They will teach.
As he studied the painting of Jacob giving his blessing, passing his right hand over the head of Joseph’s firstborn and placing it on the younger son, he noticed something I would not have thought to point out in a well-planned lecture on the painting.
Joseph was a middle-eastern man painted white and I assume the woman in the painting was supposed to be his wife, white as the sheets on Jacob’s deathbed though she was truly Egyptian.
Maybe the dark skin tones would have messed with Rembrandt’s whole light-and-shadow scheme? That and a dozen other explanations fall short, disconnect.
Art is beautiful but not always accurate. Art comes from artists, flawed and fallen, and your words or music or brushstrokes may never perfectly articulate my life but you will share what it is to be human. Flawed and fallen.
Your best art will connect me with what it is to be redeemed.
When I read about Aslan I have a sense of being protected, but at the same time I understand the terror of being chased, being slashed by the swipe of a lion, being pushed into a situation that requires bravery and armed only with shaking knees and the promise of His great invisible presence. I know the desire to bury myself in that great mane of the Lion and I understand the way I also would jump at the sound of His roar.
I am Lucy and Edmond and Susan and Peter. I am even Eustace sometimes. They all wrap up my human experience.
When I read of the teamwork of The Boys in the Boat, a true story and still artful, I feel the weight of hard-luck boys carrying a country. I ache at the way circumstances deal them blows, the way the odds stack against them like they sometimes seem to do to us all. And when they win it all, I win it all.
A great story will take us through our own emotions and let us imagine what we might be like, what our response might be, and how we might be rescued or the rescuer.
A picture will bring a thousand words to our life—capturing emotion and thought and feeling we had no words for—and a thousand words can picture us differently from the reality we live.
All of us fragmented and connected.
I was interested in my son’s observation, but he had lost it and was ready to check the “art” box on his schedule and move on. The boy who looks different than 99% of his everyday acquaintances wasn’t interested in philosophizing about why Rembrandt painted black and brown people white.
Add another peg to his worldview, another observation, another thousand words to the picture of his life, and I know all these things will come out over time. All the ways he observes the world, and all the ways the world observes him, are coming to fruition. He’ll make connections. He’ll be painted wrongly. He’ll paint others the way he sees them.
The connectedness of things, of all the strokes of genius in creation and all the fallible ways we try to relate them to one another, are part of the mystery that belongs to God. That we would recognize them (this has something to do with that) is a grace.