Sunday, April 23, 2017

Of ballet and reefs

Great Barrier Reef. (Toby Hudson, Creative Commons)

I had the pleasure of speaking at Merri Creek Anglican today, following World Earth Day. The audio will be here soon. I gave one of my standard sermons on creation, following Psalm 104 - a meditation on the beauty of creation, including in its savageness. I've written a paper on this in the EcoCare journal and blogged elsewhere.

The night before, I took my family to the Shanghai Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne. A beautiful dance production with beautiful moves and costumes in a beautiful building.

And then I was reminded of the unifying theme, that of beauty. The world abounds in beauty. Humans at their best create beauty. Art, ballet, music, poetry, literature. These things are not the frilly bits at the edge of society and theologian Tom Wright points out, but stand at the middle of what society is about. Kenneth Clark understood that art was one of the cornerstones of civilisation.

There is a meme, which is false, circulating that Winston Churchill claimed that part of the point of fighting WWII was to defend ideas like art. Why cut funding to the arts during a time of war. Churchill did however say:

“The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

This is in contrast to President Trumps cut to the arts, which occurs at the same time to savage cuts to environmental care. Coincidence? I think not.

You see, I think that capitalism at its worst is all about brutalism in reducing everything to the utilitarian or that which can be consumed (which is not to say socialism is without its faults). The art, like nature, is not consumed. These things are appreciated, related to. And theologically, both and art and nature have artists that lie behind them.

My thought then is to give the best of myself over to the contemplation of love and beauty, to living lovingly and aesthetically, to preserve both.