Archive for Thoughts on culture
I was given a book of 500 self-portraits for Christmas and it got me thinking about how and why the artists rendered themselves the way they did. I wonder what they were trying to say and what they were feeling. How did their self-portrait reflect their society? How would our self-portrait reflect our society? These are just some of the questions that I’ve asked myself as I examined the book. So for what it’s worth here is 501.
I try not to look as I make my way up the final couple of stairs, but like a small child on Christmas I have to peek. I simply can’t hold it, I must see it! On more than one occasion I’ve found myself walking briskly down the hall towards it and if it wasn’t for proper museum etiquette I would run to it. It stands over 8 feet tall and 14 feet wide and it is quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. James Ensor’s painting of Christ’s Entry into Brussels is simply magnificent. I’ve seen it on more than one occasion and every time I simply don’t know what to think. As my eyes examine the painting my mind is flooded with thoughts and I find myself being forced to sit on the politely cushioned bench. My eyes begin to hurt as they rapidly try to focus in on all aspects of its grandeur. On numerous occasions I’ve sat in silence with my head bowed and eyes closed not knowing what to feel. As I gaze upon this work of art I always seem to find new meaning as it speaks to me. Its abrasive colors challenge my senses, the harsh brushstrokes make me feel uneasy and its sheer size makes me feel small and insignificant. I’m haunted by this painting because it speaks a difficult truth; a truth that I have not yet to understand.
In the midst of a Mardi Gras parade an image of Christ is riding on a donkey. Perfectly placed at the center of the painting (I don’t think by coincidence) Christ is in the midst of debauchery, pride and selfishness. Christ is surrounded by figures that are celebrating anything but his return; he is the center but he is not noticed, he is alone and insignificant, he is simply a sidenote. As a look up at this paining I’m reminded that Christ is here with me and in the middle of the world’s crap. How can this be? How can Christ be in the midst of this place and still want to be with us? I simply don’t know how, but I know he just is and he just does.
We are constantly bombarded by the media and its attempt to infiltrate our minds with the latest cultural fads and fleeting passions. We have entire magazines that are devoted to celebrities and their seemingly exotic lifestyle. These gossip magazines are everywhere from local news racks, grocery stores, gas stations and even in your doctor’s office. In fact it’s hard to think of a place where we don’t find these types of magazines or this use of media.
One can argue that gossip magazines are not even ethical, the reason being that they portray a false image of reality. As we devote more time into reading about what celebrities walked the red carpet and what fashion designer they were wearing, we become increasingly debased and lose track of the bigger picture. There are greater things in the world that need addressing and far more pressing issues. We must also keep in mind that the media may just be giving us (society) what we really want. Or should we dare to ask if the media giving us what they want us to have? Either way this is a striking reflection upon the world in which we live and the ethics which we live by. I’m hesitant to say that it is wrong to read these types of magazines due to the fact that it’s boarder line legalistic and in fact I’m not even interested in addressing that issue. What I’m interested in is how our society has become consumed by the self. When God’s righteousness and the beauty of Christ’s love have been put on the back burner we must ask ourselves what are we truly living for? These magazines are just a tangible example of how we are living for ourselves. We have lost sight of what really matters and have found ourselves in the midst of self-indulgence. As we begin to look around we can see that we have been given over to our degrading passions and our hearts are becoming increasingly hardened towards God. Gossip magazines are just an example that show us how we have begun to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). We begin to idolize humanity not recognizing its sinful and completely flawed nature. In fact gossip magazines and this type of media can be actually seen as worship of humanity’s sinful nature. These magazines pride themselves on the lust of the flesh and pride of live. They do not reflect the heart of God but rather the heart of man.
I believe that the beauty of man can be celebrated, but with the recognition that God is the creator. All things belong to Him and we have been created in His image and not our own. When we lose focus of this we begin to fill the truth of God with the lies of Satan. Our society has embraced the lies of Satan and has begun to replace the beauty of God with lies that only leave us with insecurities, doubt, passions that can never be quenched and a sense of pride that will never truly be filled.