Poetry and Life

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Mr. O'Rama asks a question that I will probably need to think more about:

Do some, for whatever reason, have a higher “minimum daily requirement” of art? Of plays, music, books, theatre, film, paintings, architecture, poems?

I think of the Little Way of St. Therese and wonder: If we could see life as it truly is, as spiritual warfare in which our most insignificant actions have rippling effects -then would not our lives be infused with meaning and art be, extraneous? What need has the soldier on the field of battle for novels when his own life is the stuff of legend?

I do not know the answer, but I do know how I feel. Art is one of the great battlegrounds for hearts and minds. Poetry, literature, music, art, cinema, all vie for attention both as entertainment and as edification. I don't know that walking through the National Gallery of Art actually qualifies for "entertainment" or even really "diversion." I think experiencing art is another way of experiencing a portion of God's creative capacity as doled out in His creation.

I suppose we must take very seriously the question of whether some need Art or whether Art makes life more "real" or more "lived" as I must believe it does. I seriously doubt that the Holy Father would have wasted the time in writing a Letter specifically to Artists if he did not consider the matter vitally important.

Yes, if we visualize all life as a spiritual battleground much of this is true. But if we look at life that way, are we not also missing part of the message? Is life MERELY a spiritual battleground. Isn't it also the time during which we come to awareness of the glory and the grandeur of God. And isn't Art one of the ways in which we can do that? I have seen a great many moving sunsets and sat beside lakes, streams, waterfulls, and rills. I have paddled among rias and aits and even kayaked up the Potomac to Great Falls to take measurements near Difficult Run. I have walked the paths of Hocking Hills and had the great Serpent Mound all to myself for days on end and all of these things are great and glorious. And I have read a poem by Hopkins and been a thousand times more moved and transported than many of these other things have done. I can recite from memory hundreds of poems, thousands of fragments, but only one natural impression has remained so indelibly impressed upon me. Not that all those things I mentioned before are not beautiful, but that beauty in its different forms speaks to different people. "My Father's House has many mansions." I cannot imagine life without art. I am uncertain whether I would have come to know God as well as I hope I do without Caravaggio and Monet, Palestrina and Debussy, Dante and Joyce.

So I think the answer is, yes. For some art is a necessity--it is the lifeline through which God communicates some portion of His grace and presence. Some seem to get it from fishing, others through sports, still others from gardening and simple daily tasks. For some of us it is in the words we use every day. And that does seem apropos as we are told, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . ."

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I'll have to think about it some more. I certainly am not implying a minimalist or Puritan philosophy! Not in the least. I guess my issue is how to live on a Wednesday afternoon - as Walker Percy put it so beautifully. Living in Central Ohio - mecca of civilization that it is - tends to make life a little dry sometimes. I know you won't believe it, but it's not exactly Florence, Italy. There's a part of me that believes/wants to believe that life is gloriously interesting in Central Ohio if I'd only see the spiritual war more clearly. But perhaps this comment is what I should've said on my blog (I can fix that)...



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 14, 2003 8:37 PM.

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