Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday morning

Division Street, Great Barrington, MA

It’s Sunday, so a sermon is in order. This was sent to me by Father Ralph Peterson, who I met at Olafur Eliasson’s event at Bard, and whose interest in art includes having brought the Louise Nevelson-designed chapel at St. Peter’s in NYC’s CitiCorp Building into being. These are excerpts from a sermon given by Canon John Simons at the installation of the Rt. Reverend Dennis Drainville as the Twelfth Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Quebec. Although it’s been unfashionable of late to think that art should be anything more than information or even to make value judgments (I’ve been accused of wanting art to be “good for its audience,” as if that were silly, when the alternative is to waste time on the stupid or mediocre) I like the expectation put forth here, that it “enlarge the boundaries of the self.” BTW I believe in any and all religions, and none.

Human beings are by nature spiritual beings, created by God to receive the Holy Spirit. The evidence of this receptivity is that we cannot be human unless we live ecstatically. In other words, each of us lives by participating in a larger reality than our particular location and perspective, than our particular consciousness, and, conversely, each of us, enriched by that larger world, adds his and her unique sensibility to it.....

Our spiritual potential is given a particular inflection in everyday life through music and literature. We all know what it is like to be moved by a poem or a novel, or any other work of art, for that matter. An aesthetic work enables its audience to enter and explore a different way of seeing something, a different way of feeling about the world, or, a way of feeling that is already ours, but which we may have repressed. To appreciate a literary work, for example, is not simply to be informed about the author’s point of view. It is to feel the sense of things expressed in the work.

You enter into the characters, so that it seems as if it were your own heart beating beneath their clothing. Hence literature, music and art do not isolate us in egocentric desire or self-pity; rather, they invite us to actualize our capacity to love, that is, to abandon our self-preoccupation, to stand outside ourselves and within the world as experienced by others. This is what love does, and what art fosters. It enlarges the boundaries of the self.


Stephanie Clayton said...

all "sermons" should be like that.

Pretty Lady said...

You and me, both. That Regina Hackett post reminded me of people who try to shame me for wanting to 'profit from healing people.' Excuse me? It's only okay to profit from HURTING people, or merely providing frivolous entertainment?

A hack glass artist from Texas recently called me "Oprahfied' for stating that I thought the job of art was to increase the boundaries of the human mind. He also accused me of being 'immature' for insisting that Texas was not a healthy place for me to live and make art. Thus proving my point.

Carol Diehl said...

I want my environment to nurture the best in me. I want to eat food that feeds my body and soul, and I choose my friends because they have qualities I aspire to. Music, art, film, literature are all part of the mix. Does this make me sappy? If so, I embrace it.

LXV said...

Hey, I'm cracking up over here. Thanks PL for directing me toward the Regina Hackett article. Sorry I missed the link first time around. She's right about one thing: art doesn't care. It is completely amoral and dispassionate (despite what all the schoolmarmish, October-ish missionaries would have us think). I find I have agreed with you in my dislike of the "prominent trio" but on the following grounds. Sherman is ungenerous, Donovan is ditzy and Dumas is slick.

I am less than 24 hours away from jumping ship and going off the grid for the next 3 months to work (no internet, email or TV; and no "undo" button) and I'm getting a small case of the bends. But I wanted to thank you for the "sermon" I'm no churchgoer, but in times of need I go for the sap. It's bailed me out many a time when my connection to life was tenuous for one reason or another. There is something to be said for the celebration of sharing our humanity with others, not in vague, pious or pontifical ways, but with specifics and investment.