"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives." Albert Einstein
I’m with Albert on this issue… have you ever truly watched young children at play? Theirs is a world of wonder, where they make up one adventure after another. Much to the dismay of many a parent, they must “grow up”, and often, a line is drawn between wonder and reality… and that’s a shame.
Are you familiar with the notion of NOMA? That’s an acronym for Non-Overlapping MAgisteria, a notion brought to us by well-meaning scientists who tend to be very narrow in their scope… in other words, God-less. In simplest terms, what it states is that in conditions where science and theology intersect, you must always side with science. Really? Who makes that decision? Empirical Science came about because of the Queen of the Sciences, Theology. The reason for science is to take us down a path toward truth, yet that’s the same reason for theology. It seems to me that at some point, science and theology won’t merely intersect, but merge.
I suspect that line between wonder and reality works much the same way, merging into a pursuit of beauty. Songwriters, novelists, and poets can be obsessive in their quest of just the right word. For painters, sculptors, and craftsmen, it’s the next notch or stroke that stands apart. For the photographer, it’s the understanding of lens and light, and being there, wherever “there” is… all in striving for a quality of perfection in the pursuit of beauty.
You notice this quality precisely because it is so rare. What generally brings a work of art alive is not its inevitability so much as the decisions that the artist made. We gasp not because the words, the impressions, or the brushstrokes are “right”, but because of what they reveal. They show us not a deterministic process but a sensitive mind making surprising and delightful choices. This is evident even in science, as pure mathematicians often say that it is precisely this quality that delights them in a great proof: not that it is correct but that it shows a personal, tangible human genius taking steps in a direction we’d never have guessed. That’s a direction showing that pursuit of beauty goes way beyond mere art.
Paul states in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” This is one verse that is taken out of context more often than not. I doubt that it was intended as a set of lofty ideals to separate Christians from the secular. When you look at it in the reverse of separateness, could it be that it is a way for us to sanctify this culture through our faith? The secular culture of late seems bent on doing everything to put the “post” in the post-Christian Era… oh, there is the occasional intersect of the culture and Christian ethic, yet seldom without a true merge. An atheist humanist contact once sent me a video of an atheist humanist community out to prove that you don't have to be a Christian to do good. The spokesperson went on and on about that, but fizzled at the end when he tried to define 'good'... without a transcendent source to determine 'good', anyone can define it however they choose. Where culture and the Church diverge, it’s culture that must change, not the Church… but how is that done?
There is not one square inch of the entirety of creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, “This is mine! This belongs to me!” That quote is attributed to Abraham Kuyper, and he’s right because God owns it all, including the secular society whether they know it or not. That being the case, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable can be found in the secular as well as the sacred. Can we find truth and beauty in people caring for each other in times of crisis? Do we see nobility in the sacrifice of a soldier, policeman, or fireman? Can it be right to enjoy a secular movie or song? Is it lovely to find a married couple that stays together when others are splitting up? Can we find something admirable about the sheer ability of an athlete? Could we not look for something praiseworthy in the ordinary talents and capabilities of everybody we meet? Do you think the secular world would see something excellent in us if we could point to what is excellent about it? Is there a possibility that the ugly ideas of this world would get pushed back into the shadows if we brought out the beauty of God’s truth in it? Is there anything of value in the secular world? The constant pursuit of beauty might reveal it… but grateful people who see the beauty in grace already know that.
The things that we find beautiful today we suspect would be beautiful for all eternity. This is where God’s Word breaks in: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1… even God, as an artist, is expectant of beauty.
This was taken from the Cowee Mountains overlook near milepost 430 along the Blue Ridge Parkway here in North Carolina. Cowee (pronounced Co-wee) is a derivative of a Cherokee word meaning 'place of the honey locust', a tree they used for food. It is by far the best place for sunset on the BRP, but as you can see, sunrise can be spectacular, too. After many mornings of standing here in the cold and darkness trying to ply my handiwork as a photographer at this spot, the long red wavelength of light found its way from across the horizon and saturated the low clouds to compete with autumn over the cascading mountains. I stitched 7 vertical images to catch that big sky, yielding an image 66”x24”. I understand the science behind this image, but to be honest, in the wonder of this morning, I knew God threw me a bone... much appreciated! “f/8 and being there.”
To Be Grateful
For life, for breath For daily strength and bread. O, let me not forget - to be grateful For moon and stars, When the road is dark, Lord, for your holy scars – to be grateful That you call me friend For the grace to stand And the mercy that I need By your sacrifice Jesus, I’m alive So what tribute can I bring Here is my heart offering – to be grateful, endlessly Here is my heart offering – to be grateful In highs and lows Whether joy comes or goes Lord, let it shape my soul – to be grateful For friends so rare, When it rains despair, And even near death to dare - to be grateful CHORUS For life, for breath For daily strength and bread. O, let me not forget - to be grateful
@ 2013 Skin Horse, Inc (ASCAP) by Billy Sprague
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