politicians destroying art…vol. II in the Chronicles of the Asinine

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Thomas Merton


(just one wall section of the murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco)

Today we continue our venture into the tales of the asinine with another example
of idiocy outweighing common sense.

It is now officially a sorrowful fact that we, as a culture, have a serious issue
with common sense…as in, we don’t possess any.

Case in point, a high school in San Francisco—oh wait, that alone probably says all you
need to know…but I digress.

This particular high school has some very historic murals that have sadly found their
way into the sites of the Political Correctness Police.

Wait.
“Are they a thing?” you ask.
“What?” I ask…”You mean the PC Police?”

Well, sadly yes…I’m afraid to report that it does seem that the
PC police are indeed very real, very powerful and very scary.

George Washington High School in San Fransico has a collection of murals that
are on display throughout the school and have been there since the 1930s when they
were painted and funded by FDR’s New Deal.

The murals depict the life cycle of George Washington.
They show images of slaves and even Native Americans—some living, some in battle
and some dead.

Images in part because this was part and parcel of this man’s life in the 1700s
during the inception of this nation….not all positives yet realities of the day.

The San Francisco School Board has voted to allow approx. $600,000 to go toward the
destruction of the murals.

All because our culture no longer likes the truth about how life used to be in the early
days during the founding of a nation.

And so we are now seeing that art, which depicts a life that was, is being deemed to be
politically incorrect–as it is viewed through the closed lenses of a 21st century
gone mad.

The culture we live in has deemed that the life of George Washington is obviously
politically incorrect…
Incorrect to those liberal progressive nuts of the 21st century who don’t like the reality
of a man’s life in the 1700s.

I was an art student at the University of Georgia in the late 70s into the start of the 80s.
Well, let’s make that an Art Ed major who took a copious amount of Art History courses,
as well as a great many studio classes, right alongside painting majors, printmaking majors,
sculpture majors, interior design majors…

And it’s never been much of a secret that art majors tend to be a more liberal lot.
Which is in part as to why my conservative younger self sometimes looked a bit out of place,
However, I managed to find a love for many of my professors and fellow classmates.

It was a different time when differences of opinions and lifestyles could still enjoy
one another’s company while still offering nuggets of growth and wisdom to one another.

I did not like modern art…Post-impressionism, Postmodernism, Op Art, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Pop Art, assemblages, installation art, etc…
but rather I loved Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionism periods.

Yet I learned early on that art tells a story.
And I do not believe in the notion of art for art’s sake…
Because there is responsibility to art as well as a responsibility from the artist.

I would often tell my students that art must be aesthetic…
that which is “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

As a class, we would spend hours discussing the blatant destruction of the ancient
artworks of Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters. From the smashing of statuary to the actual
blowing up of temples and centuries-old carvings.
Destroying the stories of a previous people—whose breadcrumbs were left as gifts to
future generations—left to be everlasting in order to tell a story—-
telling their story of then to us today.

Much like the murals in George Washington High School in San Francisco.

According to an article on artnetnews.com at least 400 writers and academics are
protesting the planned destruction of the murals.

The 13-panel painting was created by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff in 1936
through the Works Progress Administration. The cycle depicts the life of Washington,
and includes images of America’s first president as a slaver.

But the decades-long debate—which pits activists who take offense at the startling
images against those who say the works were specifically meant to be critical,
not celebratory, and should be used as a teaching tool—is lingering on.

Last week, the academic online journal Nonsite published a fierce defense of
the murals in a letter that has since been signed by nearly 400 writers, historians,
and artists, including prominent academics such as Michael Fried, Aijaz Ahmad,
Adolph Reed, and David Harvey.

“It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a
federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression,”
the letter reads. “Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute.
It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the US history of racism and colonialism.
The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.”

The letter has since been submitted to the San Francisco Unified School District,
which had not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

Rocco Landesman, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,
wrote a letter to the New York Times decrying the planned destruction of the
painting cycle.
“This just in: A significant segment of the liberal community is turning anti-art,”
he wrote.

“When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed,
how do these desecrations differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas
in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”
Landesman asked.

These continuing tales of the asinine are more than simply stupid happenings
by self-righteous ignorant people.
They are a blatant reminder that we are not progressing as a culture…but rather
rapidly regressing.

And the sad thing is, as much as these rabid masses fuss and cuss that which they
claim to be politically incorrect, we as a global family are suffering
due to some odd sense of entitled hatred.

When will we say enough is enough?

Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:5-7

infinitely more than yourself

True, He is infinite Majesty, but He is also infinite Goodness and infinite Love.
There can be no greater Lord than God;
neither can there be a more ardent lover than He.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori

dscn4749
(a January Georgia morning sky / Julie Cook /2017)

“It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from
tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago.
People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists,
if we have so many wars.
On the contrary,
consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred
and avarice and oppression and injustice,
spawned and bred by the free wills of men,
the human race can still recover, each time,
and can still produce man and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love,
greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity.
How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us?
Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from,
when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences,
only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace?”

Thomas Merton

“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.
Unless you know God as that—and, therefore,
know yourself as nothing in comparison—
you do not know God at all. ”

C.S. Lewis

God Comes

“Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.”

Thomas Merton

michelangelo_caravaggio_77_nativity_with_st_francis_and_st_lawrence
(Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence / 1609 / Palermo, Italy)

“God Comes”

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers
of the First Sunday of Advent
(Saturday, 2 December 2006)

“At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her
proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words
‘God comes.’
These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.

Let us pause a moment to reflect:
it is not used in the past tense—God has come,
nor in the future—God will come,
but in the present—‘God comes.’

At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action:
it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again.
In whichever moment, ‘God comes.’

The verb ‘to come’ appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological,
since it says something about God’s very nature.
Proclaiming that ‘God comes’ is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself,
through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.

Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly.
It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat:
Awaken!
Remember that God comes!
Not yesterday,
not tomorrow,
but today,
now!

The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’
is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history,
but he is the-God-who-comes.
He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom,
desires to meet us and visit us;
he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us.
His ‘coming’ is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death,
from all that prevents our true happiness.
God comes to save us.

The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming’ of God—continuous and, as it were,
co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ:
his Incarnation
and
his glorious return at the end of time…
(cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870).

The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.

In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord’s Final Coming,
as the texts of this evening’s celebration demonstrate.
With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on
the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem,
so that we may recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.’

Between these two ‘manifested’ comings…
it is possible to identify a third,
which St. Bernard calls ‘intermediate’ and ‘hidden,’
and which occurs in the souls of believers and,
as it were,
builds a ‘bridge’ between the first and the last coming.”

simply settled

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
Thomas Merton

dscn4629
(cattail / Julie Cook / 2016)

I posed a question yesterday…
or actually… A.W. Tozer posed the question…

the question being…
“what do you think of Christ and what are you going to do about him…”

And maybe that’s two question in one…

However…
in that simple question lies the cusp of everything…
everything in a compact little nutshell.
The true bottom line.

For you see…
the question here isn’t about religion….
It isn’t about debates…
It isn’t about doctrine…
It isn’t about being an atheist
It isn’t about being agnostic
It isn’t about faith…

This is a question about one thing and one thing only.

Jesus Christ.

Nothing that has followed.
Nothing that has preceded.
Nothing that has resulted over the continuum of mankind…

With the only sole issue in the question, which is of relevant importance, is simply Jesus Christ.

People can claim to have problems with the Bible…
With the Church
With the faithful
with morality
with the various branches of Christianity…

Yet when all of that which is superfluous is finally pushed aside,
when the dust is settled
and the last breath of contention is expended,
it is only Jesus Christ who remains….

All these other issues,
concerns,
battles,
questions….
are reduced but to one single thing…

“God spake His eternal Word in Christ Jesus the Lord,
so Christ has settled every question….”
Because everything stands or falls with Him—and Him alone…

And until you are willing to cut away and dispose of everything else
that merely is distraction and minutia…
and deal with the center of the matter…
Jesus himself…
then you will continue avoiding the answer…

(a paraphrase of thought based on A.W. Tozer’s The Crucified Life)

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you,
my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

reward

“True happiness is not found in any other reward than that of being united with God.
If I seek some other reward besides God Himself,
I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.”

Thomas Merton

dscn4606
(changing colors / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 65:12-13

update… day 6 in ICU

I wanted to let you all know, those prayer warriors out there, that our niece seems to be holding her own.
Last word from my sister-n-law, late this afternoon, is that Chrissy actually opened her eyes today—the first time since Friday.
She is still very heavily sedated as she continues on the ventilator.
Her vital signs have stabilized and she is no worse…yet not quite on the road to better…
but the positive gains, be they minuscule and barely visible, have provided much hope.
Isn’t it amazing how something tiny and barely detectable can send hope soaring…

I do ask that we all keep the family from Nebraska, whose little boy was killed this week at Disney by an alligator, in our thoughts and prayers. That family is in desperate need of our focused prayers and abiding love.

“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.”
Thomas Merton

what shall we suffer

I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured and gunned down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us.
Paulinus of Nola

DSCN2550
(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.
Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering…

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps harden them.
Endurance alone is not consecration.

Suffering is consecrated to God by Faith–not by faith in suffering but by faith in God.

Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead.
And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good,
not because they have meaning,
but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

Thomas Merton

The quickest and easiest way in which a hurting world will dismiss God, and especially the love of God, can be found deep within the black pit of suffering.

Suffering verses the embodiment of God as Loving Creator are each at the juxtaposition of comprehension.

The human mind cannot grasp, let alone digest, that there can be both suffering as well as a God who espouses to be Love personified existing within the same universe of both space and time simultaneously.

And yet the faithful hold tightly to the single fact of truth… that God hates suffering.
How can this be?
Why then won’t He simply wave a hand freeing us mere mortals from Suffering’s both evil and horrific grasp?
“Make it stop, please…”
pleads and begs the anguished, broken, pain ridden heart of the one so deeply wounded by the merciless hold of Suffering.

And Suffering, with its law of averages, and as painful as the reality is, will visit each and everyone of us at some point during our lifetime.

It will visit us up close and intimately personally…
or
it will visit those whom we love and hold dear
or
it will descend upon others… and it will be only thorough our deep empathy for humankind that we will in turn rage against it there as well.

Or even worse….
It will, void of all mercy, descend upon us on all fronts of our lives…relentlessly hammering us and appearing almost sadistically calculating, until we beg to be released from this life…

And yet there is but one explanation for suffering…

It is found in the cross.

That damned cross…

The cross of both death and damnation

Yet that same cross of both Grace and Salvation…

That same cross worn around my neck.
That same cross that is our bridge…mine and yours…
Our only hope,
The only way…
Which will lead us finally Home…

And as difficult as it is, that same saving cross is the raw epitome of Suffering…

We must all face the cross…
Just as we breathe a breath, we must face the cross…
There will be no avoiding it, no getting around it, no denying it.
It is the impassable road block to our journey and it must be dealt with,
by each of us, on our own individual journey home in our own unique way.

We simply cannot believe, live or profess that Jesus overcame death if we cannot, in turn, face the cross.
As hard and as painful and as difficult as that will be, we must each face the cross and all that it entails.

Many of us will spend a lifetime running from it, hiding from it, denying it…

It will be the hardest and most difficult thing any one of us will ever do,
but it is something we will all have to do…
if we are to share in the conquering of death by God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:4-5