"The closer artists came to the High Renaissance art the more classical, monumental, and ideal figures became. Famous paintings in the High Renaissance had grandeur, idealism, and soft rendering of details. Some artists too became interested in the immediacy of the moment or how things looked in an instant of time. This led to an interest in the sublime, man fighting against man, good against evil to the death, and the action of the moment with all its expressions."
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Last week I wrote about light and darkness and Genesis 1 and would like to continue on that theme in this post. After watching "Mission Impossible II" and "Unbreakable" in the last few months, this theme has been on my mind. In both movies, there is reference to ancient Greek and comic book myths that explore both tragedy and hope along with good and evil as represented in the contrast between light and darkness. These movies seem to hint at the hypotheses that good cannot be understood without evil and that the oral and written traditions of the ancient world seem able to teach us about both.
The main difference I have seen between cultures that emphasize oral rather than written traditions is that oral history seems to exaggerate to prove a point. This is essentially what the Samuel L. Jackson character says about comic books in "Unbreakable". He states that the super-heros are an exaggerated form truth handed down to teach us something. More specifically, of truly gifted people that fate, karma, or god has put on earth for some noble reason. His mission in life is to find the hero so he can learn about himself as the villain. Somewhere along life he became convinced that the weakness that caused him to break bones at the drop of the hat was a sign that someone else was out there with superhuman strength;
He spent his life trying to create one disaster after another to find Mr. "Unbreakable"; thus finding purpose in his life. He thought his purpose was to be the evil in the world that would make clear the good. This is no different than the first few chapters of Genesis in my mind. It seems to me that perhaps centuries of church scholars have been wrong about Genesis in that they miss the purpose of the book. In my opinion, the purpose is either to provide a precise written history of creation, the origins of man, and the fall or it was to put into written form the oral traditions of the East about creation, the origins of man, and the fall. If it is the former, then much of the commentary on this book misses the original intent: To use exaggerated language to prove a point.
Perhaps it is much like the Renaissance art forms of Idealism and Realism. As the following quote seems to indicate, the more idealized(less literal) art gets the more the sublime is emphasized:
Sublime means the quality of greatness and would seem to point to perhaps the purpose of Genesis was not to record history but was a story much like a Greek myth designed to paint a snap shot of a moment to prove a point: That God is great. This line of my reasoning began in a post-modern type church meeting where one of the leaders of the meeting got up and stated: "Face it friends Genesis and Adam and Eve are myths." Not myth in the modern sense of lies but myth in the sense of oral tradition with the purpose of making a point. I rejected this at the time but a while later began reading the blog of a man named Henry Neufeld who is a friend of a man named Ed Brayton who blogs at Dispatches on The Culture Wars at www.scienceblogs.com. He had studied the history of it and had come to the same conclusion. I was more open but still rejected this idea.
Then, when I had thrown out all the assumptions embedded in the form of Christianity I had been taught and began to think for myself, I watched these two movies and it finally clicked:
The whole point of the first few chapters of Genesis seeks to contrast the darkness from the light! This line of inquiry has led me to go back and read Thomas Aquinas and I started with his writings on the existence of God.
Guess what? People asked the same primary question back then: If God is everywhere and God is good how does evil exist? Maybe it is just like the comic books. Maybe evil has to exist to show the good. Maybe the villain has to has to show himself for the hero to be seen? I realize these presuppositions in this last paragraph that need to be explored but more on that next time....