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Let's Talk of Beautiful Things
and leave the ugly awhile
The Advertiser, August 19, 2000 p. 10, Week-End
The picture of course is not pretty. To be sure, 'pretty-pretty' is not appealing either. There should be meaning and depth and .... what ?
The picture in question is of a piece of ceramics. It occupies a good part of a whole page in bright tones. Its clay softness of colour is contrasted with a shocking pink skirt, one with no shoulders, but high neck-line: nothing of the flesh in that! It is in fact modest. The hands of the lady cross against the middle in an attitude of quietness, and on the dress ears are pinned. They are soft in appearance, and do not blatantly declare that they are ears, which is well, since one does not normally have more than two, and these rather proliferate. They are the colour of the dress, subdued, like all in the picture, but have ear-rings.
Now the head, that is the question.
It is as it were, first detached, surgically, cleanly, and then placed
with the spot where the ear would grow, aligned nicely with the middle
of the neck, and placed upon it.
The chin which points to the right, since the head, to achieve this distinctiveness, is on its side, does not have further ado with life. It points to the right and the head ending, so does that attachment. It is a sideways head. However it is not a guillotined neck which we see, merely a chin which finishes the horizontal head, in mid-air.
Presumably this is to emphasise the quiet mode of the picture, the listening posture, the lack of biological and physiological relevance, while the ear listens to the body, being applied to the neck; and the dress's ears listen to the ... world ? Presumably again. It is a horizontal sort of ceramics, everything being environmental, the internal environment, the external environment... and so on.
WHY talk about it ? Frankly it is a convenient point of digression. But also it is a useful symbol of spiritual movement. Firstly, despite its demure qualities, it is ugly. It does NOTHING to suggest the latent beauty that mankind can have. Its geometry is clever, but not artistic. Its detachable head is loaded with submission. Its hearing posture, together with its horizontal emphasis, is world conscious. It is a vulnerable, adaptable, quiet and learning part of this world. Of beauty, truth, elevation, the picturesque, holiness, godliness, of charm, of the wonder of life, it has nothing. If it were a spy course model, for agents, it might appear serviceable. The lecturer might often refer student operators to it!
It is, at least, not as gross as some pieces worth countless baubles of purchasing power. But it IS creative, it DOES use symbolism.
Creativity ? What is this ? We have often considered it; but today we look merely at one phase. . . the DOING of it.
In my own mind I can see a picturesque way of thinking of it. I see first light, that is the start. Then there is something being shown in this light. There, look, behold, it is a cliff face (rather like the one seen at Victor Harbour last Saturday), and it is grand, noble, quiet and has for all that, a sort of sheer power of being in the midst of such elemental forces as the ocean below and the quiet, vast skies above. It juts out, not with violence, but with splendour. It is composed. It is sure. It stands, yes, and it looks; but it makes no movement.
Now look, one sees the environment, the seas a little, the light is ON things and the picture grows. Inter-relationships become more obvious.
So then, first the ray of light on the rocky coast, slowly revealing itself, and then with more relationships, then words begin to come, almost with a life of their own, yes and with life they burrow and furrow, they move and align, they WORK, and vigorous inter-play in development proceeds. It is as if they were there, but now they are at work. It is rather like, this creativity, a picture of THE WORD who was there in the beginning. We are in HIS image, the ONE who without beginning is like that. We are His creatures, made for fellowship (and horrendously twisted when without it!).
So it can be with human creativity. There has to be light. IF, as Jesus said, with a bad eye, the light which is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! If, on the other hand, the eye is good, then the body is full of light.
Let us look at that, for it is in
the Sermon on the Mount, so attractive to Gandhi, for that matter.
"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Bad, or evil translates the word given as 'bad'.)
SO there IS creativity; and LIGHT is the opening of vision. It can be BAD or even EVIL light; how ? by having a bad or evil eye. It distorts, discolours, disfigures or does not even respond to what is really there at all.
HOW could light be darkness ? The figure is of the sad replacement of what is inept, inappropriate for what was apt and good. Hence the light that illumines becomes the darkness that obscures... distorts, disfigures, sees things without the spiritual dimension of altitude, which gives perspective, origins and destiny, but continues, for one example, in THIS poor, cursed world, as if it were the heights, the cynosure and paragon; and hence is indeed in darkness. In this context, how lovely it is to reflect on John 3:13 (as in the main body of all texts). "No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
Now let us first be clear. Christ ONLY could ascend to heaven, since only HE is intrinsically celestial, OF heaven, FROM heaven and by nature, FOR heaven, being the word from the beginning, and being GOD (for there is only one, as the Bible often states, of those celestial beings, so that to be that one is the end of the matter). Others may be BROUGHT there; but HE ascends. HIS is the elemental reality of belonging not to the high cliffs by the sea, not to the clouds and heavens of stars, merely, not merely to space, not only far above all space men imagined in the inveterate imagination of man: but to heaven itself. That is His station. HIS abode is of God, with God, as God (John 8:58, 5:129-23).
CHRIST ... YOU AND I
HENCE He is IN heaven even when He is on earth. HIS SPIRIT BELONGS THERE. Now you and I most emphatically are NOT in that position. NO ONE ELSE, says Christ. That is the case. You and I BEGIN, HE does not, but is without beginning or end. THAT is precisely a large portion of the glory of the crucifixion, that wholly holy splendour was willing to undertake so vile a task.
Enough, HE while on earth is IN heaven. You and I however, while on earth, if IN HIM, abiding in this same eternal Christ, can by virtue of His Spirit be living in the HEAVENLY PLACES (Ephesians 2:6) and illumined with a light celestial from HIM (Ephesians 1:17). Hence our whole vision is of splendour, not ugliness. We see vertically, even when we look horizontally.
We have no need of detaching our heads, as in that ceramic piece we have discussed above, and putting them on our necks in order to listen to whatever the biological world may wish to donate to such devotion! We have no need to have EXTRA EARS attached to our very clothing, to catch every vibration of the global entity, this world. We do not LOVE this world, and its ways (James 4:4, 2I John 2:15ff.), though we are uniformly THRILLED at the glory of creation to be discerned in the residue from the curse, which is left (cf. Matthew 6:28ff.); and that IS very wonderful and often most beautiful.
The world, indeed the creation, is however humbled (Romans 8:20), and groans and travails as a result (8:22), while the Christian, facing such need and sorrow, in prayer groans and travails, as he/she seeks good and deliverance here and there in the name of the Lord. In particular we read, Paul (Romans 9:1ff.) is moved in a similar way, in depth and anguished hope, for his brethren racially, the Jews, that they might come to Christ, ceasing to trust in their own righteousness, which even their own earlier prophet Ezekiel warned them not to do (Ezekiel 33:13), and trust in the righteousness which comes from God only (Romans 3:23ff., as in Isaiah 44:5-6, 35:24, 32:1-2,17, 53:4-11).
But we were talking of creativity, so let us return to it. Our Creator is infinitely creative. WE are part of the products of THAT. The tale of Pinocchio touches on it playfully, but it is most serious. We are the greatest invention by an incalculable amount, ever made with matter, amongst ALL things visible. GOD DID IT. Freedom that marvel, it is HIS invention (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 16, The Flashing Falls of Freedom, and Indexes on Freedom, but esp. SMR pp. 348ff.). Love is then equipped with a habitation for man.
Very well then, we as His creation attain to this facet in His work, that WE are (being in His image, fit for fellowship when cleansed by His active word, Jesus Christ, whose splendour in preparing this medicine we have just been pondering) ... we also, are creative. LIGHT plays a noble part; and the question, as we have just been seeing, is WHAT SORT OF LIGHT ?
"Will a man leave the snow water
Which comes from the rock of the field ?
Will the cold flowing waters be forsaken for strange waters ?
Because My people have forgotten Me...
And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways,
From the ancient paths,
To walk in pathways and not on a highway..." (cf. Isaiah 35).
This Age, the twenty-first century,
coming of age at this number 21, is filled with darkness, it grovels in
spiritual hovels, and calls them mansions AND makes you pay if you wish
to inhabit them. It is not free. It is not finding; it is a gold-seeker
in the creeks, and it grinds out its powder, and specialises in starving,
butchery and brokerage, in mean acts of revenge and vengeful acts of spite,
in spleen and pretence, grandiose visions and miserable victories of pain.
It hangs with its finger-tips at the top of the cliffs, avoiding immediate
disaster by the most slender of margins, its eyes shut tight to the splendour
(cf. Matthew 13:14-15). It prefers darkness (John 3:18-19). That is its
This Age is maturing. It is the culmination of much in preparation. The major churches, as we have been seeing with sad multiplication in past items, with few exceptions are capitulating to the lie, more or less, and some even make new lies of their own. That sort of CREATIVITY is predicted (cf. II Timothy 4:3-4, II Peter 3); and it is just the perversion of a beautiful gift - that PLUS some help from the nether powers. Now let us be clear about that. They are metaphorically nether, in the spiritual lowlands, and their effect is to distort, to destroy and to hobble. Dense vapours arise. They promise the world, and they lose themselves. They are brilliant, but not clever. They are smart but not wise. They know all the answers, but none of the questions to which answers are needed: they are shallow. And it is sad.
Turn then the creative eye to the Lord, and be thrilled with HIS wonder, HIS creativity, and charged anew from those divine resources which are your birth place, relish the wonderful, delight in the true, work at His word, embrace it, drink it, eat it, imbibe its portions, receive its light, and turn to the Light of the World, whose creation does not miss even you! He has been here long ago, continues by His Spirit, soon to accomplish His orderly return as announced for so long by so many, so faithfully (cf. Acts 1:7ff.). Meanwhile ?
Yes, a NEW CREATION is the CURRENT mode of His creativity for this world. It is NOT, emphatically NOT, the platform which is being created (and how nice that astronomer Hoyle of Cambridge saw that so clearly). The NEW is NOT coming in the material plane. What is coming is the RENEWED, and in fact the REGENERATED at the spiritual plane.
As to that, even it is NOT NOVEL, because it is MERELY being restored to what it was at the first (Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24). It is even superior to that in one thing, that it is an ASSURED thing now; for redemption is eternal (Hebrews 9:12ff., 10:10,14). This new thing, this new creation, this stable regeneration, this you should PUT ON. It is to be found in the wardrobe of Christ, prepared for the players in the human drama. You should wear your costume, because it fits. It is the dressing of grace, the plaid of supernaturally woven naturalness, the tartan of truth, the fashioning of love, the lace of loveliness, the fabric of faith, and its red motif is cardinal, like blood left a little. Yet even this, it is beautiful, not wet, but a symbol of His blood who with His outpoured life, redeemed ALL WHOM HE CALLS.
Are YOU called ? Listen. That is the thing to listen for; but you say, I cannot hear. Then SPEAK.
Take with you words! says Hosea 14, surely one of the most BEAUTIFUL passages in the Bible. What shall I say ? you ask. Listen:
"Say to Him,
'Take away all iniquity:
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips' " - Hosea 14:2.
But this is not all that verse. It starts like this:
"Take words with you,
And return to the Lord..."
HE RETURNED to this world, after
(cf. SMR Ch. 6, pp. 931-940, Stepping out for Christ Ch. 5),
so YOU return to Him. It is enough.
Return to your point of origin. Come back to the One who made you; and come with sins ready for deposit in the bank of pardon, where He who became sin for us, enables us so to receive the gift of righteousness and indeed with it, of eternal life (for HE IS the eternal life of God, I John 1:1-4); and DO receive it. Thank Him for it. Then look at the rest of Hosea 14.
"I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from him.
I will be like the dew to Israel:
He shall grow like the lily...
His branches shall spread..."
The Christian is already returned; but he/she GROWS in grace and in the beauty of holiness.
"WHO IS WISE ?" it asks (14:9).
He shall understand these things.