07 July 2015

Rock Climbing, Art, and Mediocrity

Originally written 30 January 2014.

Art. God. College. Calling. People. Knowledge. Family. Dance. Engage.

A couple of the buzzwords in my head lately. There are others: isolation, depression, why?

I know God doesn't have to answer to me, but if I don't know the point of being at college, why bother being at college?

In chapel the other day, the speaker (the president of the college) was using rock climbing terms as his metaphors. One was 'dyno,' or 'dynamic movement,' which is when the climber leaves his three-point hold on the rock to leap up to the next hold. Sometimes the only way for the climber to progress any further up the rock is to let go, push off out of his other holds in a leap up to the next. Obviously that parallels life, but what is the hold that I'm leaping for? It would be stupid to let go without at least seeing the next hold (if not any further)... isn't it? I don't know.

The more I read from artists and about artists, the more I see the theme that God has entrusted artists with something he does not entrust to many: I don't feel I know enough about this yet to be able to tell exactly what, but it seems to have something to do with seeing and giving grace to a world starved for it, something to do with drawing the laity into a deeper communion with God and each other, something almost kind of like prophecy -- warning sometimes and providing hope sometimes. It's a high responsibility and I don't even know where to start handling it yet. Perhaps this is why some of the greatest art in history has come from Christians -- such responsibility can't be managed without full reliance on God. Art without God so easily gets stilted and hollow (or, nowadays, commercialised), and a world awash with that sort of 'art' degrades the whole idea of art -- even good art.

Another word that was used in the 'rock climbing chapel' was 'engage.' Engage with business, engage with science, engage with sports, engage the arts, engage the world. Engage with the arts -- how? I'm at best a mediocre dancer, I'm not training 60 hours a week like the pros do, and I'm not even healthy enough to dance for very long or very well. But to engage in the arts would mean I would have to be one of the best. I'm already too old for this. To train myself to that level where I'm even on the art world's radar... that would be the next thing to impossible. I would go crazy just trying to reach that level, never mind actually trying to maintain it once I'm there.

I've been settling back on these excuses, rationalising that no-one will ever see my dancing anyway because it's not suggestive enough for the world's stage. But this is exactly what I rail against all the time in Christian music -- this mediocrity, this sense of, 'well, I'm good enough... I'm better than the rest.' But if I won't stand for that in music made by Christians, how dare I stand for that in dance done by Christians?

All these excuses -- what am I afraid of? The work that will go into it? Actually succeeding?

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