Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love, Wonder and Perception

"Love achieves its creativity by being perceptive" wrote Oliver O'Donovan in his book Resurrection and Christian Order.

I like that quote, because it encapsulates the reality that for the great artists of the Western tradition, creativity was a form of love. This is the point that Josef Pieper made so eloquently in his tender book Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.

Great sculptors like Michelangelo could look at a slab of unworked marble and ‘see’ the finished product that they would then take months to lovingly bring to reality. Similarly, Bach could be given a series of five or six notes and instantly realize in his mind the potential those notes had for an entire invention. (In the case of the Goldberg Variations, Bach was able to take a simple musical statement that by itself might seem unimportant and, under the loving care of his creativity, to worked it into some of the finest music that has ever existed.) This is similar to the way that we are the workmanship of our Heavenly Father, whom He is steadily bringing to completion (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord sees us not as we are, but as the people He is making us into and the people He will have brought to perfection when we are finally glorified.

If this is true of the way artists perceive raw materials and how God perceives us, it can also be true for how you and I perceive the world. We can train ourselves to observe the glory and beauty inherent in the world we inhabit.

Children do this naturally, since they have an inborn sense of wonder and enchantment. Part of what it means to grow in maturity, however, is to recover this sense: to learn to once again experience a child-like delight in the things we have become accustomed to taking for granted, to perceive the world around us in fresh and exciting ways.

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