Monthly Archives: June 2012

Exploring Innocence


The other night Sarah and I wanted to watch a movie.  We felt like something a little intense and were limited by Canadian Netflix, so we went with “Unthinkable”.  It was an alright movie, but it’s primarily about torture so… you know.  Think of the torture scene that made you squirm most in “24” and then crank it up 5 or 6 notches.  The film is essentially the discussion of whether torture is ever appropriate.  Similarly (actually almost identically) to “24” our protagonist is struggles with questions like how do you weigh effectiveness vs human rights? How far is too far? And is there easy math (torture one to save one million) we can apply?  Ultimately, when faced with complete evil, does morality “work”.

After the movie,it was late and adrenaline was high so, when there was a loud-ish unexplained noise in our house I was sent out on the husbandly duty of inspecting the house for intruders, none were found so we settled back into bed.  However Sarah was still feeling nervous and took quite a while to fall asleep.

I was reflecting on that event later and wondered why or if watching a movie about such a gruesome topic was the best idea.  Then I got to thinking of the bible verse “Whatever is good, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, think about these things”

I can’t imagine anyone using the adjective “lovely” to describe torture.

Then I thought of “be innocent of evil”

Innocence doesn’t seem to be a priority in our society, it’s not something we protect.  Being innocent, naive or sheltered is not to be proud of (just ask Brittany);  but yet there seems to be a strong biblical mandate for it.  Heck, what was The Fall (Gen 3) all about?  Eating from the tree of “The Knowledge of Good and Evil”, because Eve wanted to be “like God, knowing good and evil”.  It would seem that innocence is good for us.

ALL THAT BEING SAID, have you read the Bible?  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  As I mentioned in my post “The Danger of Safe Art” the bible comes complete with many stories of rape, war, murder, genocide, and other things I don’t tell my kids about just yet.

How does being encouraged to dwell on whatever is good, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely line up with being encouraged to read the story of a Levite cutting up his concubine into twelve pieces and mailing her around the country (remind you of any current news stories?). I have always been of the opinion that art has to reflect reality.  I don’t think the scripted dialogue of a bunch of soldiers in the trenches should be “Oh Boy, well by golly, I think my pal Jim just got shot”.  That’s not how war is.  If we are going to reflect the world and the horrors of it, we need to be honest.  How else can we express (or understand) the ugliness humans experience and inflict on each other or really explore questions like the ones posed by “Unthinkable”?

Somehow we are called to hold these things in tension (I actually think that almost everything of importance is held in tension, but that’s another post).  Somehow the same God who tells us stories of horrors reminds us to think about whatever is good pure and lovely.

I will leave with one more thought, not my thought, someone much smarter’s: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ”

What do you guys think?  How do we hold this tension in the art we consume as well as the art we create?


Descriptors of Goodness


A couple weeks ago I wrote a post by the name of “The Dangers of Safe Art“.  In it I explored that I don’t think “safe” is a great target when it comes to great descriptors of art.  In it I also suggested a few words that I think are much more compelling, words like Honest, Challenging, Prophetic, Yearning, Leading, Calling for Action, Real, Raw, in various comments and conversations afterwards people used other words like “Redemptive” & “Reflective”

It’s always much easier to state the negative (Art shouldn’t primarily try to be safe) and much more difficult to point in the right direction.  I suppose you could say…it’s less safe.  Nothing is easier than throwing rocks from a distance.  However just like good art, I think good blogs point to something rather than just criticize.  Criticism is easy and unless accompanied with hope is largely a waste of time.

All that to say, I am no expert but let’s start to build a list of positive descriptors of art; I’ll use some of the ones from my original post as well as some of the follow-up

  1. Honest – To say Art should be honest seems too obvious and cliche but yet…true.  Art is expression. Art is voice.  If it doesn’t reflect something that is true about the creator or how they experience life, the planet, other people.   Honesty doesn’t mean obvious, guys like David Bowie were famous for writing form other characters perspective, but it still contained an obvious piece of the artist and their thoughts on the human condition.  Artists can create in a multiplicity of different vantage points and use “un-truths” like satire etc. but it still needs to be honest.  Maybe it’s eternally true, maybe it’s honest in a moment, but it has to be real!  If the creator doesn’t believe the piece, why should anyone else? (Example: Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars)
  2. Challenging – Not all good art challenges us directly.  But I think the BEST art does in some way.  Challenges us to act, challenges us to understand, challenges us to have compassion, challenges us to challenge the system, maybe even challenges us to appreciate a new beauty. (Check out Silence is Shameful by Luke Dowler)
  3. Prophetic – This one is a little trickier, but I love art that paints a picture of where we could be, or what ought to be.  Pictures of good relationship. Pictures of hope.  Pictures of where I am called to go.  (Check out Under Bridges by Brave Saint Saturn)
  4. Redemptive – Redemption is such a beautiful word and concept.  Taking something that has been corrupted and restoring.  Reflecting the ugly but showing beauty and in doing so bringing freshness.  There is a lot of hip-hop that does this well. (Check out Wavin’ Flag by K’naan)
  5. Reflective –  This one is a little different.  It’s not a call to change.  Great art is reflective of goodness as well.  There is some fantastic art that not only reflects the human creator but also the Creator.  A painting of a flower, a sculpture, a photo of true friends smiling, a doll reflecting the innocence of a newborn.  Some great art simply acts as a mirror to take us out of our own heads and condition and remind us that beauty is all around! (Check out this video: http://vimeo.com/24456787)

What do you think?  What are some descriptors of goodness in art?


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