The ordered love of art: Three Talks in Austin
St. Augustine once said that the virtuous person is the one who has ordered his love, so that he does not love what it is wrong to love, or fail to love what should be loved, or love too much what should be loved less (or less too little what should be loved more), or love two things equally if one of them should be loved either less or more than the other, or love things either more or less if they should be loved equally.
While this may feel like a tangle of phrases and conditions, it is a much simpler vision of the faithful life than what is often on offer in our churches. We want someone to tell us the rules: do this, don't do this. We look for the formula: if you do X, Y and Z, the godly life is yours. We demand that the Bible answer every question we put to it, despite every evidence from the Scriptures themselves that they're not interested in answering all our self-involved questions.
The Scriptures, in short, summon us to love the Father as Christ by the Spirit loved him and then to do whatever we please, which is another way of saying doing whatever is necessary and good in the actual circumstances of our life.
This, I believe, involves an appreciation and enjoyment of the arts and of all things beautiful, however difficult they may be to discern on any given day.
In three weeks, on July 14-15, I'll be giving a triad of talks sponsored by Christ Church Anglican, in Austin, Texas. It's open to the public and I warmly welcome you to come if you're able. Here are three descriptions for each of the talks. For all other info, please go here, especially because you'll need to register for the first and third event on account of space limitations.
(All images, save that of St. Augustine himself, are in honor of the American Dance Festival, which occurs in our very own backyard here in Durham. I've included the PINA movie trailer below.)
"On Art, Beauty and a Flourishing Humanity"
July 14, Sat. 10 AM: "The Virtues & Practices of a Flourishing Artist"
In this talk I explore four virtues and four corresponding practices that enable artists to flourish in any circumstance or station of life. A virtue, as Aristotle once explained, is a habit that disposes us to be the kind of person who does "the fitting thing in the fitting way at the fitting time for fitting reasons." A virtuous artist, by that reasoning, would know when to risk greatly, when to be cautious; when to pull out all the stops, when to plug away quietly without notice; when to labor, when to rest; when to stretch their audience, when to be gentle; and so on. Along with these ideas, we'll do a few individual and group exercises to tease things out practically.
July 15, Sun. 9 and 11 AM: "On the Place of our Physical Bodies in Corporate Worship"
In this sermon I draw out the important role that our bodies play in corporate worship. Our bodies, I'll suggest, play both an active and a passive role, and if public worship is a place where we bring our whole humanity along with the whole of the people of God in a dramatic enactment of prayer and praise before the whole Godhead for the sake of the whole world, then what we do with our physical bodies contributes significantly to our discipleship as Christians. I'll consider this as a big idea but I'll also look at how it is worked out in the different movements of the Anglican liturgy. And we'll practice together!
July 15, Sun. 6:45 pm: "On the Reconstructive Power of Beauty"
When you and I taste something beautiful in the world, we get a taste, even if only partially, of the shalom that marks God's world. When we expand beauty in the world, whether in small or in extravagant acts, whether in simple or complex works, whether in public or private, we enter into the kind of work that Christ by his Spirit is on about throughout all of creation. When we offer these kinds of experiences to our neighbors, they communicate, in mysterious fashion perhaps, a reconstructive power over against the destructive forces that surround us daily. In this talk I'll propose a provisional definition for beauty, offer a few ways in which an experience of beauty can become a reconstructive experience, and tie it all in to the kind of work that God has been on about since the beginning.
PINA - Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost - International Trailer from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.