While on a walk, I experienced two very meaningless things that convinced me to start blogging again.
The first meaningless thing happened in the park. It’s a large park. Lots of winding paths that lead to baseball fields, parking lots, playgrounds, parking lots, walking trails, and parking lots. It’s not a beautiful park. It’s essentially a field, completely stripped of natural flora and the ground is a very dead beige in the winter, with a few unconvincing, scrawny trees planted desperately along the pathways. Please think we’re pretty! Parks are pretty! We’re pretty! Please, you gotta believe us, they’ll kill us if you don’t!
Another one of the design elements of this park is, what I have dubbed, Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge. Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge is a circle of precisely identical, faux-natural rocks, roughly waist-height, arranged in an impeccable circle smack dab in the middle of a small field. Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge is brown. Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge is the ugliest thing in this ugly park.
I’ve often wondered about the thought process behind Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge. Did the designer do a semester in the UK and is now super in-touch with his ancestors’ culture? Did someone fight to make Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge exist- No, boss, I won’t build another parking lot. It’s for the Planet. Was the designer fraught and frantic because she works a job that should realistically be worked by three people but the landscaping company won’t hire anyone else and she can’t get another job because she’s fresh out of college and she was told to do something creative with that beige field but was given a budget of seven bucks and a Chick-Fil-A gift card so Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge was the best she could do and she hates it and feels she’s compromised herself as an artist? Who knows.
Regardless, it was clearly meant to be beautiful, and it’s not, so it’s always a vaguely irritating, vaguely amusing fixture whenever I’m bored enough to walk through the park instead of the trail.
On this particular walk, there was a bright yellow Porta Potty in the dead center Tiny Capitalist Stonehenge.
I stopped and stared at it. There was no construction or maintenance going on. There was no one around who might use the Porta Potty. In fact, there was no point in the Porta Potty even existing- there was a beigy, boxy public restroom a mere parking lot away.
What was it doing here? Was it a mistake? Abstract art? A political statement? All of the above?
This, I thought, sagely, is how too many Christians misunderstand art.
A crap imitation of actual art, with an out-of-place, awkward Jesus metaphor as the reeking centerpiece.
(see God’s Not Dead, any Amish romance, Scamilton, etc.)
I realized that I looked crazy, philosophically staring at a Porta Potty and a bunch of rocks, so I moved on.
The second meaningless thing happened as I crossed through a parking lot.
I saw a car in the distance- not sure what car, I don’t know car genres, but it was squat and shiny and dark green, like a freakish junebug- and it’s license plate read PUCK. There were multiple strange magnets, the exact same, repeatedly, of what looked like a giant, smiling donkey’s head.
As I approached, I mulled over who this person might be, and why they might be so obsessed with Puck. Perhaps they met their love while playing in a community theatre production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. He was playing Bottom and she was playing Titania and, lo and behold, Puck’s trickery was actually right for them. Poor Oberon, though, I bet that actor had been in love with Titania’s actress. But still, why the repeated donkey-head magnet? Wouldn’t one have sufficed? Maybe they were gifted multiple car magnets at their wedding, perhaps by the disgruntled actor who played Oberon? And they had to place them on the car out of awkward politeness? No, no, this story makes no sense, it’s so needlessly complicated. Maybe, actually, they just enjoyed Shakespeare, got the license plate, and then their mother, who is elderly and forgetful, accidentally gave them the same magnet twice but they appreciated the gesture so they kept both, after all, who knows how much time she has left? Or maybe…
I was right next to the car now. I blinked.
The magnets were not smiling donkey-heads. They were hockey players.
And this, I thought, humbled, is how I too often misunderstand art.
A single theme will seem crystal clear to me, so I build an entire analysis around it without giving myself time to gather all the facts, to contemplate, to think.
So, I’m blogging. I’m hoping to accomplish two things.
First, I want to help demystify art for any interested Christians. I don’t think there’s the same fear and hesitancy surrounding “secular” art that existed throughout my childhood (the caveman reactivity to poor Harry Potter is an embarrassing blight on Christian culture, imo). However, I think there is a hesitancy among Christians to engage with art for purely practical reasons- how can reading Dracula help my walk with Christ? Isn’t rewatching Glass Onion a waste of time that could be spent making disciples? And, if art isn’t a waste of time, how do I discern between art that is beautiful/useful and “art” that is garbage?
I don’t know if I have good answers, but I do know that God has constantly used art to help me understand him throughout my life. I’m hoping to share some of those stories, and maybe some insights. We’ll see.
Second, my life has become such a rush of stress and activity, that I’ve caught myself being much less thoughtful about art. I jump to conclusions, I think chaotically, I mistake hockey players for donkey heads. Hopefully, by developing a practice of writing my thoughts, I can learn, again and anew, how to contemplate.
Thanks for reading, friends! I hope your walks are blessed with Tiny Capitalist Stonehenges and mischievous fae disguised as hockey players.