Monday, June 25, 2012

Coursing Earth Energy

Today I worked with this lady who is a pantheist, though she wouldn't call herself that necessarily. She believes in an organic world where everyone's spirits are connected. She says things like the spirit leads her to make certain decisions. She doesn't plan anything in her life, she just follows the spirit.

However by spirit she doesn't mean God. She says the spirit is like an energy that courses through all of life. We are all god. It doesn't matter to her who created it all. She says, "I don't need to know who an artist is in order to appreciate the art. I just accept that it exists and I enjoy it."

After our conversation, I thought about that statement though. I think you can better appreciate and understand the art if you know the artist. When I go to the Getty, I certainly appreciate the beauty of the art but I cannot enjoy it as much as, for example, Prof. Chadwick, who has really studied the artists. He know the purpose of the art and the values the artist, etc. I love being a History and English major because I study different time periods and read the literature from those time periods and I understand it better. It becomes fuller and impacts me more.

Her philosophy really reminded me of J.D. Salinger when she said that she doesn't need to know the artist. Salinger was all about anonymity. In his short story, "De Daumier Smith's Blue Period" the main character, a boy posing as an art teacher, especially appreciated the art of a woman named "Sister Irma." She sent her art to him with no self-portrait and minimal information about herself. He admired her and found her art much more beautiful than those students who signed their art pieces and gave loads of personal information. Salinger loved an artist who made something beautiful and kept him/herself hidden. This is the kind of God my co-worker wants I think. I love this concept of a humble artist, but I must recognize that I cannot understand Salinger's art as thoroughly without knowing some things about him. His message becomes more clear because I know about him.

I do believe it is a noble goal to be humble when doing art, because all human creativity is given by God. It is a  different matter, saying God shouldn't or doesn't show himself as the artist/creator, than saying humans don't need to or shouldn't. Ultimately, I can appreciate any art as a gift that God has given to all of mankind, the gift of creativity and imaginitivity. Ultimately, whether it is human art or natural creation art, humans should praise God. A human artist should be appreciated for his/her work, but always remembering God gives humans their creative abilities.

When I studied Salinger's life, I found that his art and life are nearly indistinguishable. I think that is the nature of art. Life reflects art and art reflects life. I think we need both knowledge of the artist and his/her art to better understand the art. I don't doubt my co-worker's love and appreciation for the universe. That is common grace, however I do think that because I know God, I can appreciate it better, or at least I should. It's through special revelation (the word of God and the Spirit of God who gives me faith in the word), that I understand and appreciate general revelation (creation, which sings its artist's praise).

I told her that I am a panentheist, which means "all in God." I believe God created the universe and he is in and through all things (Acts 17:28; Eph. 4:6), the source and sustainer of life. Only God is God but everything exists only by his power. The universe depends on God's dwelling in it to exist, but the universe does not contain God. God is not bound to it.

My coworker doesn't like the idea of "God." She believes that God is man's creation, basically a societal construct. She says that she just accepts life a she sees it. She loves nature, the simplicity of the road, exploring the earth, but she says she just accepts it and goes with the energy flow, which is I think what she means when she says she follows the spirit.

It's confusing. But I don't think she cares about defining anything. She just wants to accept life but in accepting it she does construct her own beliefs. Her beliefs are very native american. She is a native, so I think it is her ideas that are her societies constructs.

I am amazed by how close she is. This conversation reminded me of Paul's sermon to the Athenians recorded in Acts 17. Basically the difference between our ideas is that she doesn't want to know the artist or the meaning. She just wants to live life and enjoy the beauty of life. She follows the energy flow, tries to stay out of the way of nature. She doesn't seem to believe humans are anything special.

She told me that she would hear the spirit talk to her in her sleep. She would wake up from the sound of someone screaming in her ear. The voice told her to leave Portland and go to New Mexico. So she started talking around, got connected with friends of friends of friends in New Mexico, moved there, got a job. She said she has been in Arizona for seven summers and she feels a sense of permanence. Everywhere else she ever lived, she felt like she was just stopping there for a while. In Arizona she feels like she has arrived.

I should have asked her how she came to believe this stuff, or how she even knows it's true. I never told her that I am a Christian. Is that bad? I thought that she would make all these assumptions about me if she knew but I admit I was a little ashamed to label myself. I was thinking on the drive home though that I should be more open about my beliefs. She was so bold and sure but also not overly aggressive. I mean she wasn't really shoving her belief down my throat. I don't think I was doing that to her either. She said she liked that we could just talk, discuss, and it wasn't like we were trying to convert each other. But that is untrue of me. I am always trying to convert people. Is that the wrong way to go about things? Maybe I should rather just say the truth and pray that the Spirit of God works.

I'm not sure if anything I said challenged her or impacted her, but I know she challenged me without knowing it. She challenged me to appreciate the universe more than I do, and to be more bold about my beliefs.

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