Sunday 2 August 2020

Instead of culture...

Unless we are cotent for life simply to be less; to experience 2020 as pure subtraction; we need to consider how to replace what has been taken and destroyed.

(I'm assuming that what we have now is - pretty much - what is in store; assuming the present System continues.) 

There is a lot to replace! Culture has substantially gone - theatre, opera, art galleries, orchestras, museums, libraries, bookshops, singing, dancing, church bells - whatever culture you valued, chances are it has either gone-altogether or been substantially diminished in volume and quality.

With heavy and prescriptive social control, social separation etc; the replacement must be something we can do 'on our own' - or rather, what we do will be between our-selves and God.

I would say that we may wish to create - draw, sing, write poems - but for our-selves and God. A very pure act of divinely-oriented creation.

And, in the same direction, we may strive to become more of the nature of mystics, romantics; we may consciously value, intensify, make-more-frequent those times of contact with the divine - from all causes and in the most creative, participative, ways.

Not just contemplation - although that is essential - but acts of creative consecration. The lack of a human audience may be something we can learn to set-aside - to become like the legendary medieval stone masons who carved their non-visible roof ornaments for the Glory of God.


John Fitzgerald said...

I read somewhere once that the first cave painters carried out there work in incredibly cramped and dangerous conditions in the full knowledge that none of their contemporaries would see the completed work. They did it because they felt compelled to. As the poet and painter David Jones (1895-1974) used to point out, man is a 'sign-making', sacramental creature. It's that imaginative gratuity - the need to make something that isn't purely utilitarian (like the skilfully constructed seagull's nest on our roof) - that sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

So we're not even going 'back to the catacombs'. We're going back to the caves! That's how drastic the situation appears to be. But let's not kid ourselves, 'Culture', at least in its official representations, has been marginalising spiritually resonant work for a long time now. Save our tears, I say. Officially approved art (eg the UK's 'Arts Council') has long just been an exercise in propaganda.

So yes, it is between ourselves and God. But for each other as well. There are always discerning spirits out there and it could well be that we will find one another better now in these 'post-culture' days. And don't forget the future too - even if it's the far-future. Who knows what effect the works we forge now might have on those who, in times to come, might have the opportunity to properly renew and restore civilisation and culture?

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - Great comment!

Anonymous said...

Inspiring words John!


Bruce Charlton said...

@John "Officially approved art (eg the UK's 'Arts Council') has long just been an exercise in propaganda."

It seems an interesting fact that culture has been abolished at almost exactly the moment when this process of decline and corruption reached completion - so that we should indeed "save our tears", because at his point very little has been lost (compared with any time in the past).

William Wildblood said...

I echo the praise for John's comment and also the original post. Culture has long since been destroyed as a living thing though we are a fortunate generation in that we now have easy access to almost everything from the past in a way past generations didn't.

Gary said...

Culture as a public phenomenon (that is, created, sustained and propagandized by formal institutions and the mass media) is now just the recycling of the recycling of original work created long ago.
As such, it is detached from our most immediate concerns, from our real life, and almost always operates as a distraction. Which itself is one of the greatest evils of our time.
This is tech-enabled (recording devices, printing, sound systems,etc) which is why we had so much of it until a few months ago.
It is possible that for culture to be truly invigorating and in the service of life, it must be in some way original. That is, either created or reinterpreted by ourselves or somebody whom we know and trust. AND the person creating must be aligned with the divine.
So, that precludes almost everything which was available even before the birdemic.
The destruction of this type of "culture" is thus another part of the Revelation - i.e. that it was not fit for purpose.
As with all other things, the task of the hour is to assume personal responsibility for the most important things. And this involves the creation of divinely oriented culture from our own hands, and preparing the way for our children to be able to do this as well.
The path is clear, we either choose to tread it or to despair and succumb in ignominy.

Francis Berger said...

Excellent post and great comment from John. I also appreciate Gary's insights concerning the role of most contemporary culture as merely distraction. The stone mason analogy is very memorable and fitting.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to say 'amen' varying Bruce's phrasing to newly singing - or hearing sung - an old song to and for God - and ourselves. Especially live - and 'in person', where hearing - or joining in - is to do, 'especially' but not only 'in person' or even 'live'. Having joined a Gregorian schola, or schola 'section' which alternates with another, last autumn, I sang through the Sundays - and some other (major) feast days - of the liturgical year, until sometime in March when the 'draconians' came - but was able to continue singing along with live broadcasts, until services and schola resumed. This is very old song - a lot, even largely, Ninth-century or earlier - but largely new to me, and almost wholly new to me singing (along). And I've heard it observed, plausibly enough to my mind, that during 'lockdown' it has probably been the experience of who knows how many for the first time at least to have participated by listening along regularly - with who knows what stimulus to continuing live and in person as soon as opportunity arises.

David Llewellyn Dodds