Arts Mentoring Group Monthly Letter

by Geoff Hall on September 30, 2010

September, 2010.  Vision

Dear Mentoring Group,
For the last month I’ve been stuck on these words written by Paul to the ekklesia community in Colossae.

“So, if you are serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up and be alert to what is going on around Christ; that is where the action is.  See things from His perspective.

So often this is translated in a way that produces a severe heavenly mindedness, rendering the usual conclusion about earthly use.  If you look through scripture with the wrong lenses, reality can be full of strange contradictions.  The philosopher Michael Polanyi wrote of our visual abilities, noting that we actually see like a medium-format camera, upside down, but that our brain translates, transforms this vision the right way up!  In an experiment with a pair of inversion glasses, which reveal how we actually see things, the wearer sees the world the ‘wrong way up’ again, causing all sorts of problems when trying to negotiate their way around a room.  Imagine driving with them on!  (Is this the problem with the M25?) The Postmodern worldview is like this; it is applying an inversion which disorients human navigation.

The renewed mind allows us to see the right way up.  We understand that the things ‘going on around Christ’ are not simply a picture of some heavenly domain, but that it is mirrored in the events of everyday life.

‘What is going on around Christ’ can be seen in the art of our day, in paintings and installations, films, literature, music and dance.  It reflects on things like human worth, meaning and purpose in life, it darkens the room with nihilistic gloom and lightens it with the perpetuity of grace and self-sacrifice.  There is not an impregnable boundary between the heavenly and the earthly.  We are called to ‘Look up and be alert’ and we should know that we have this visual ability, but also the attitude of heart to be alert.  This is not a call to the impossible, or the ‘ideal’.

How should this reveal itself in our work as writers and poets, filmmakers and visual artists, musicians and dancers?  How do we fulfil our calling, or indeed know it?  How do you know what your ‘proper job’ is?

Spiritual direction in a postmodern landscape may seem precarious, but God is impervious to the shifting sands of time and the many changes of perspective that have occurred in the ebb and flow of the historical narrative.  Our work should not be self-focused, but Creation focused.  We should look at this Creation and marvel, we should look and grieve.  In this same passage from Paul’s letter, we are told to ‘pursue the things over which Christ presides’.  This is not some kind of heavenly displacement, denying the visible for the invisible, but it gives us a context to connect with, which helps us understand that our work holds such a powerful influence when it reflects the Kurios of Christ.

So what is ‘going on around Christ’?  Well, look around your own field of expertise and check out the conversations artists are having with their audiences.  What are they saying about life, relationships, about what is wrong with the world and how it should be put right?  This is a conversation we should be participating in. Why?  Because Christ presides over the earthly as well as the heavenly; because when we look up with a renewed mind we see the world the right way up, we see that our adversaries are not flesh and blood and that the new world ‘aborning’ is a reality transformed through our gifts and calling.  Poets dispelling the darkness, for instance.
Think on these things.  Cultivate a worldview which is consistent with scripture, which opens up the landscape and doesn’t partition it off, closing it down into cultural no-go areas.  Don’t be pursued, but pursue the things over which Christ presides!

Peace and Love to you all,


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