I wrote that the ‘idealized’ paintings of nature should inspire us to seek out wildness and cultivate a richer, more harmonious relationship with nature.
I think this short letter I wrote years ago shows some of my Celtic pagan roots, perhaps, that I’ve been ruminating on and trying to deal with for a few days now. Still, I hope this intense relationship with nature is now a strong part of my faith. I know that God wants us to delight in our relations with His Creation. The origin of the word relation is from the old French bring back, and all of Creation wants to return to God. My relations to nature are similar to my relations to my childhood home- I care so much more about my family than I do the physical building, but how I relate to the building does help remind me of those important family experiences. I hope that my relationship with nature is like the relationship of the man with the field in Jesus’ parable Matthew 13: for the treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven, but the man sold everything he had for the field that he found it in. That treasure is most important, but where it is found also then becomes a joy and takes on a special quality you’ll always relate to that grace and that treasure.
I should add that relationship with nature is one of stewardship and once we are moved by the beauty of Creation, and find harmony within it, then that richness is what happens when, as Chesterton said, ‘good things run wild.’ That our relationship with nature is most rich when we see God’s pleasure. You would want to take care of that field because it is where you found the treasure. You would sell everything you have to keep that connection with the treasure and the memory of the joyous moment you found it.
We can’t learn without relationship, and the ultimate relationship is with Jesus. We can also learn from harmonious relationships with The Gospels and Creation, and all of those other little relationships are tributaries that flow into these big rivers and ultimately return to the source, and I hope these relationships are rich enough to bear fruit of the spirit, because where your treasure is is where your heart is
It seems 1984 would be more useful in Russia as the Handmaid’s Tale would be more useful in Saudi Arabia- Canadians should be looking to Brave New World (a book I regret not looking at more closely when it was assigned in high school). What Huxley shows us in Brave New World isn’t a police state or a brutal theocracy, but a society where political nudging, social status signalling, shallow relationships, and the ideas that advanced technology and pharmacology can solve moral problems and quench spiritual longings are paramount. The dystopian world in Brave New World should help us hone back in on first principles; The wild man yearning for higher beauty and willing to hurt for it should inspire us
P.S. I think I’ll give The Handmaid’s Tale a closer look because it seems like the cause of infertility that impelled the dystopian world might be shallow relationships, status grubbing, and pollution, so tracing it back Atwood might share some of Huxley’s warnings
It’s conceivable that a novel or a song could almost entirely be poorly written with all sorts of clunky notes and wrong turns, but then have a flash that really would redeem the whole work and the audience- even make it so much more worthwhile on an altogether higher magnitude than a flawless conventional piece. That’s what makes Every One a promising artist.
I encourage you to look at Norman Rockwell’s painting of freedom of speech; it is what I see when I think of that great and central freedom- and it’s worth keeping in mind in our time of big data when so much speech is vile and anonymous and not intended to make anything better. When you look at the painting you will see the courage that makes the exercise of this freedom a virtue: to speak is to take a stand. You should also notice that it takes place in a physical space within a community.
So, just as important as freedom is the importance of light. In fact you can’t have joy without both. If you lived near the edge of a cliff, you would probably still want the freedom to move as you pleased, but you would also want to see where you were moving. There is no freedom in fear. We need to be equally on guard and outspoken against infringements on freedom as we are against ignoble, soul-diminishing uses of freedom. What people really need to work on, though, is how to listen with the ear of a good neighbour, and that means being willing to bravely and humbly admit faults or lift up your voice.
Great art should be like a great field guide: it should make you recognize what you’ve been overlooking for so long, and, inevitably, care about it- and another thing about art: it’s a craft and a gift. That’s why sophisticated folks and virtuosos sometimes despise ‘popular’ artists, because truly great plots and melodies are gifts, not the result of painstaking dedication to working on theory.
What I really like about working in linocuts is that I’m carving light into the darkness- and that’s why the white water on the small creek means so much to me