By Leanna Capiello
New York, (S+L)
Humans are no stranger to paradox: rich and poor, truth and lies, love and hate. And there are two things that mirror these human paradoxes with merit and mercy: art and religion.
Art is a vast, ever-growing expression of us as people. It’s tied to history, geography, and psychology. It shows where we’ve come from, where we’re at, and where we’re going. A window into how we see the world. So important, yet often neglected.
In the documentary Why Beauty Matters, Roger Scruton brings up an interesting point about the evolution of art. He argues that visual art used to have standards - technique, creativity, and most importantly, beauty. Art challenged us to a higher level. The paradox lies within knowing the world could be troubled, but creating beauty was a remedy. Today, he shows disgust at what seems to be a parody of art. Instead of working toward a higher standard of beauty and imagination, we mirror the ugliness and use it as our muse. Does beauty have no place in the world anymore?
Now for religion. Never have I seen something so akin to humans in their triumph and suffering as much as faith. Religious institutions recognize the pain while providing solace. Far from being disconnected to what it is to be “human”, true religion embraces it with open arms.
The Catholic Church specifically is a great place to experience both challenge and compassion. She’s not stagnant, she won’t stand for pacifying her people, and she refuses to settle for less than what is true and good. Even though she’s a lady tough to please, she is also quick to forgive! She is brimming with mercy, compassion and encouragement. She is espoused most closely with Jesus, who is the epitome of these things! In all her glory, the Church is a real mother: imperfect and loving.
Both art and religion mirror life, but the argument is that it shouldn’t just mirror the negative, but also invite us to rise to bigger and better. This is not to say that art will not surely mirror the anguish and sorrow of this world, or that the Church is not compassionate with human suffering, but neither of these things should stop there.
As a society, we have come to lower our standards.
We wish to wallow in self-pity and angst, insisting art with creativity and technique is intimidating, useless and devoid of meaning. We treat traditional art as a satire, saying “anything can be art if I say it is.” This has the potential to devalue the strength and dedication the artist summons to make inspiring art.
The same attitude is being applied to the Church now. The world shouts, “ideals have no place in this world, let’s get real and figure out how to really solve problems.” What’s missing is the attitude to be proactive with what we want, rather than simply being reactive to what we’ve already done
Without ideals, we will surely continue to fall into darkness. “The context that restores community is one of possibility, generosity, and gifts, rather than one of problem solving, fear, and retribution,” (Peter Block, Community: the Structure of Belonging).
If we aim high, we will always fall short, but at least we are striving to improve, and forgiveness will always be there to catch us. If we aim for mediocrity, suggesting it is the “real” remedy for a broken world, we will fall short of even that, and land in the dirt. Worst of all, there will be no repose to save us.
(Photo: Miami Chapel by FR-EE/ Fernando Romero EnterprisE)