God is art

Published 6:05 pm Thursday, March 31, 2022

We got a gift card for Christmas that somehow wound up being used as a bookmark until I realized what it was and, better yet, that it had all its money still loaded!  Score! So, onto the web I went and purchased something uncharacteristically nice for myself: a pair of high-fidelity, surround-sound headphones.  I have significant hearing loss, which means I need hearing aids to hear the world in all its calm and chaos. The new headphones I purchased accommodate my hearing aids, which means I can finally enjoy the kind of sound quality other folks have been enjoying for a while.

It’s hard for me to describe how amazing music sounds to me once again.  There’s no muffled bass, no hollow treble.  I can hear layers within the music that I have been missing for years.  Without exaggeration, these little headphones have fundamentally changed my relationship to music, deepening it and making me experience beloved artists and albums as if for the first time. There’s even a 3D element to the sound that makes the music sound like it’s coming from three feet behind me and three feet in front of me.  It’s stunning, really, and I simply didn’t know things could sound this amazing.

Who would have thought that something as simple as a new pair of headphones could help me appreciate the beauty of the world in new ways? That’s what has happened.  The first night I had the headphones, I listened to the same two songs on repeat for nearly 45 minutes.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little bit because of how differently I could hear the sounds.

Beauty can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when it surprises us in a world of horror.  Or, better yet, a world filled with horror.  I maintain the belief, however foolishly, that the world is a fundamentally good place, filled with fundamentally good people.  But we have been conditioned to sometimes be the worst versions of ourselves.  We do terrible things to one another not because we are born evil and bloodthirsty.  We do these things to one another because we have lost the ability to believe in things like beauty, love, and mercy. I am grossly oversimplifying things, yes, but you have to when you only have 600 words.  The sentiment, I contend, is true enough though.

This is where art comes in.  Art of any sort.  From paintings to comic books, and knitting to origami.  I don’t care what it is.  If it’s art to you, then it’s art.  Art has a way of pulling us out of ourselves, refusing to let the horror of the world push us into a state of emotional withdrawal.  Art stands in defiant opposition to the present world order that tells us the human species is irredeemably lost to our own worst impulses.  As long as people keep fighting for justice, and painting beautiful portraits, and writing good music, and refining years of knitting techniques, and you name it…as long as people like you and me keep finding ways to reflect the beauty of the world, than the horror won’t win.

My Scriptures say, “God is love.” Maybe it should also say, “God is art.” For they are both forces of beauty that remind us the book isn’t closed on the world.  It may just take people like you and me falling in love again with the beauty of the world in order to keep us from crossing the point of no return when it comes to our collective despair.

P.S. I wrote this while listening to a live version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ recorded at the Rock of Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.  It features in INCREDIBLE guitar solo by Prince.  Give it a listen.  Because that guitar solo, well…it gave me hope. It’s the kind of beauty I’m talking about.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.