art as universal language

monday sermon march 25 2013

art as universal language

newborns can see objects about 8-15 inches away quite sharply.  they prefer to look at faces over other shapes and at round shapes with light and dark borders.  so in fact there is no time that if held close enough that humans can not appreciate art.  art is the universal language. it takes no training or prerequisites to enjoy.  granted full art appreciation is enhanced by education, but to inherently understand an image is within everyone’s grasp.

rationalists will at times say that math is the universal language.  that it is the binding language of the cosmos.  yet it takes extensive training to be able to understand math and much more to “speak” it cogently.  art can be based in math but you don’t need to know the math to be touched by the art.  if math is the language of the universe, that which can be used to describe it, then art is the voice of the universe itself, and it speaks every language.  Marshall McLuhan understood this best and describes artists as the only beings capable of discerning the changes that media cause in society.  in effect acting as shamans to the larger tribe.  the artist as interpretor of pure information.  from understanding media:  the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.  this means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.  as society’s values, norms and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium.  these range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions that we are not aware of.”

the artist is the one who navigates these mysterious realms.  one to bring healing and knowledge from the spiritual, the land of the memes, land of muses.  in Rome, the genius was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family, or place.  the noun is related to the latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce.” it is important to make the distinction that creative people have geniuses, but they aren’t the genius itself.  the universe speaks through us and we should be grateful when we are able to translate that message clearly and honestly.

this is important work.  the world is a confusing place and the more artists work to reveal culture to its participants, the richer and more rewarding our lives can be.  and yet the smarter you are the more you are steered away from art as though it would be a waste of your intellect.  as though working to better explain and understand humanity and the universe and everything is not a laudable pursuit of your time.  if you were doing it for science them no one would have anything to say, but if you want to pursue explaining the world in terms of metaphysics instead of physics then it is less valuable, less useful, not real work.

metaphysics means beyond physics.  there are a lot of areas that physics struggles with, but it doesn’t stop looking.  science hasn’t turned away from metaphysics, it is always looking beyond itself.  so we should also be comfortable with looking beyond and allow the universe to speak to us, through the artist, through the art.


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