Yes, they have accused us of destroying life, rather than living. We, the mystics, they say, have rejected utterly the power of the plus in exchange for the zero. Yet, it is not we who destroy. No, we who have seen the faintest glimpses of the overworld, we who have seen out of the cave, we love life more than all others. We have not foisted the burden of original sin on anyone. The reasonable men have all uttered one final “I do not understand” as death has pressed itself on them. The reasonable men have thought to vanquish all enemies. Like great Theseus, they have chosen the highways of our land to rid us of the ferocious beasts. Yet, as they swing their clubs, they kill one only to reveal another. Then finally, like Theseus, they withdraw. Or rather, their bodies withdraw like the bodies of all reasonable men have withdrawn before them. The reasonable men pass with all their plusses utterly negated while they deny even the possibility of it. We do not rejoice at their realization. No, we lament. We do not equivocate over the bitterness of death. We utterly reject it. We will refuse to accept the setting darkness, as ones who have seen that the sun rises again in the east. So we look east with expectant eyes. Just as original sin presses itself on all of us, so also the dawning from the east presses itself on us. How can we pretend that mankind has not seen it? How can we deny the reality of it? If just one of our kind stepped from this cave and lives to tell of it, shall we not heed? No, we, the mystics as they say, hold life as our highest end. We will live and do live. We live because one of our kind lived before us.
“Milan Kundera memorably describes kitsch as art in which there is an absolute denial of s___.1 Kitsch offers a cosy, comfortable world, a world that is chirpy and cheerful and emotionally cheap. Kitsch trivialises human experience, never enlarges it. It deals in cliché, never new ways of saying something. It is art that is immature, often deliberately babyish. It is high on nostalgia and glitter and low on realism.
“The problem with talking about kitsch is that it risks criticising objects which can mean very much to people. The attachment is often based not on aesthetic qualities of the object but the associations and memories it evokes: a gift from a child, a souvenir of a happy holiday. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. Any dogmatic condemnation of such items is merely snobbery. In any case, today’s kitsch may well be tomorrow’s antiques!
“However, if Christian artists produce art which is shallow, sentimental and low on realism, they not only produce bad art, they also misinterpret the full Christian experience of living in a broken, albeit redeemed, world – an experience which may contain more lows than highs.”
Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, 107.
1. Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being