I’ve mentioned before (in Making a Mark) how I’ve seen a few examples of Apathy in our culture. Recently I’ve also recognized Escapism in a few places in our culture. Often Apathy and Escapism go hand in hand. For example, a person who watches a very large amount of TV is not only being apathetic but they are also “escaping.” Our lives can be very difficult at times and we look for avenues of escape, places to rest. Sometimes I see it in simple phrases like, “It’s alright,” “It doesn’t matter,” “No one is going to care,” “Don’t worry about it,” “You can only do so much,” “Do what you want.” But I also see it in deeply held religious beliefs like, “I just can’t wait for Heaven.”
I also see sports, games, and recreational pursuits as forms of escapism. For example, I recently visited a rock climbing gym, and as I watched people climbing I found it a little bizarre how people would climb, to reach no summit, that people would climb to accomplish nothing really. People running on treadmills often gives me a similar eery feeling–people running from nothing, from nowhere to nowhere, to accomplish nothing. I understand that some people use these types of exercise to condition themselves for sports or marathons or heath but even then when I see people running a marathon I see people running from nowhere to nowhere. When I watch football, soccer, basketball, or hockey I can’t help but see people moving back and forth accomplishing nothing but wear and tear.
Sometimes I wonder if we spend our whole lives on these shuffle-boards, pretending to enjoy ourselves while we accomplish nothing, and go nowhere. I watch the traffic build and fade each day like a beating heart – all these people moving back and forth. I wonder if we we accomplish anything through all this. I wonder if we simply end up with lives of superficial productivity. But what is true productivity? Did Neil Armstrong accomplish something when he stepped on the moon? Did the Egyptians accomplish something when they built the pyramids? I can’t help but feel that these too are superficial.
As an artist I’m often convicted that my work is completely superficial and escapist. I’ve also been convicted that there is only one pursuit in life that is not superficial: the pursuit of character. If I have touched the stars, but have not compassion, what good is this? If I’ve achieved great fame, but care for no one, what use is it? If I build a city, but have no community, what a waste this is.
These feelings have also deeply impacted how I understand my own Christian faith. I no longer see heaven as a place in the afterlife. Rather, I understand heaven as intangibles, like love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness (God’s Character). Consequently, I also see hell as another set of intangibles, like guilt, shame, pride, arrogance, selfishness and hate. In my understanding, God is Character – and Jesus – a living breathing embodiment and demonstration of Character, and the Holy Spirit is His Character resting on and in us. I no longer understand God as an all-powerful, omnipotent deity but rather the Character of Love who wishes to dwell in each of us. Ultimately you could say that “The Pursuit of Character” (the only pursuit that is not superficial), is to simply abide in God, and Him in us. God is not far off, but present. He is simply intangible, for what is love but something completely intangible? God is waiting to be a part of each of us, and the gates of heaven are open wide to us all.
Remember, though, that true character is only revealed in the middle of challenges. God’s whole way of moving has everything to do with it being in the midst of nastiness, for this is when His Glory is revealed. For patience is common in times of ease, but a man who can be patient even under the shadow of death reflects Character. Gentleness is also lowly among tender times, but a man who is gentle in the heat of conflict reflects Character. Kindness, too, is a trivial thing, but when kindness is shown to a mortal enemy this reflects Character. Honesty, too, is a bit of common rubbish, but when in honesty one indicts himself this honors God. To counsel peace in the midst of plenty is a blessing, but to counsel peace in a raging war is to know the heart of God. To have faith in what is tangible and visible is easy, but to have faith in the intangible is the Avenue to Heaven.
If you are new to my blog you may want to read:
Matter, Information and Character
Aesthetics and Character
My Art is Currently on Display at:
The Lorton Workhouse Arts Center: Collector’s showcase
The Lorton Workhouse Arts Center: Gift Shop
The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen