Art, Music, & Film: August 2002 Archives

The Moral Lessons of Baby Jane


Sometimes cinema gets it right--more often in the past than in the present. I was writing this morning and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? happened to be the television. Whatever you may think of the movie, it is a powerful demonstration, in miniature, of what happens when we are determined to have our own way in things.

Every major character in this movie is manipulative. They push and attempt to control each other. Baby Jane has complete control over her sister Blanche who has manipulated the accident that confined her in a wheel chair--an attempt gone wrong to murder or injure Baby Jane, whose youthful success destroyed Blanche's childhood. Disagreement builds on disagreement, resentment on resentment. "Build on" is the wrong verb. "Erodes the foundation" is probably better.

The entire house of humanity is built on such sand--bitterness, resentment, revenge. We hold petty grudges and we allow them to simmer long enough to become obsessions and hallmarks of our lives. If we drop our masks of civility for a moment, we could not look in the mirror for the horrors we are.

Jesus Christ is the one way to root out these evils. There is no other way. We have the choice of lives that devolve into progressively more vile schemes of vengence and "getting mine back," or ascending with Jesus Christ as our help and mainstay. Most of us choose a path that alternates between these two strains--but how much better off we would be if we could clear our eyes and minds for just a moment and see where the one path leads. How much better if we would sense our own frustrations, aggravations, hurts, and pains, and give them over to our yoke-mate, the great Burden-bearer. Jesus died so that we would not have to carry these weights and so that others would not have to suffer because we were crushed to the ground under them. Wouldn't it be best if we would let Him do what He came to do, so that we would be free to be human?

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Art and God


In a comment to a post on the Catholic Novel Dylan comments:

TS O'Rama has raised the question of whether loyalty to art & loyalty to God is a zero-sum game. We can't serve them both with equal fervour. Hmm. I know what he's getting at: we can't make art equal in valence to God, but I don't think it's a zero-sum game. Neither does (if we can judge from his Letter to Artists) Papa.

No, it isn't a zero-sum game because, if one approaches the whole thing correctly one serves God through one's art. It isn't as though one is loyal to one's art in opposition to God--after all, beauty comes from God. The properly aligned Christian artist regards his art as a gift given and returned to God. God expects artists to use their talents to better humankind. (I direct your attention to the parable of the three servants and the "talents"). Art can become an object of worship, but a proper orientation toward art views it as a means of expressing relationship with the Creator. I do not "worship" a Monet for the art, but I am brought a "momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste" in the medium of the Creator-inspired piece of art. Thus "Impression Sunrise" isn't about a canvas but about the supreme artistic vision given by God to one of his creatures to convey to the whole world.

I look at examples like C. S. Lewis and other writers who dedicated much of their writing to the exaltation of the Creator. This is what Art is about. Art is a medium, not an end. It's products are humanly made, often divinely infused creations. They are, at their best, participations with the Creator God in the act of creation.

As a result, works that are not overtly Christian can be read by Christians to their own great profit. For example, the Drayton Sonnet I placed here at the beginning of the day is not overtly Christian, but it can be read by Christians in a way that brings them closer to God. This is because Art is a good given by the Creator for the benefit of His creation. It is good inasmuch as it reveals Him to those who are looking. It is worthwhile inasmuch as it improves the devotional life of those who look upon it.

No, properly construed art is not an end, but it is a means of serving the Creator.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Art, Music, & Film category from August 2002.

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