Tuesday, December 11, 2018

“We hold these truths to be self-evident...”

When I was a Christian Rock-lovin’ youngster, the most important element to the art was The Truth.

Did these performers express The Truth clearly and unambiguously? If so, turn up the volume and press “play.”

Did they get fudgy about any of it? Well . . . a little of that sort of thing was admissible, if not exactly encouraged. Thankfully, Evangelicals had periodicals to sort through these matters. And woe betide the beleaguered artist compelled to explore nuances in matters deemed settled for once and for all. Step just a little beyond the line, and suddenly an entire back-catalogue of perfectly acceptable Christian Art would be purged and abandoned at the curb along with the offending cause/expression of Doubt.

Not a few contemporary Christian “careers” have been derailed by pious consumer impatience.

As adult experience slowly seeped into my adolescent fervour, it became painfully evident this 100% either-or intellectual stance had to go — the confusion and inner turmoil it kept at a roil generated too much hurtful behaviour toward others.

And still does, I am sure. Keeping it in check — or rather, keeping my easily wounded ego in check, which seems always to be a 100% either-or matter — is the difficult business of life. Well . . . one of life's difficult businesses, at least for me.

The first thing to go in my altered pursuit of happiness were the Christian periodicals. In these rags aesthetic concerns were always moral concerns — generating a milieu in which it was impossible to avoid checklist criticism.

The stuff that attracted my attention now was sensual. I had no acumen I could be confident in. FWIW the best I've come up with is: the sensual provokes the emotions. The emotions invoke the intellect. The intellect girds up, and returns to the sensual in hopes of a conditional surrender. The cycle continues.

The critics I love to read were unabashed sensualists. Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Lester Bangs, Eve Babitz, Martin Amis, Robert Hughes didn't just explicate — they threw in a lushness and luridness of experience to make the explication sensually comprehensible. They added just enough too much to make me want more. For them, the horizon of aesthetic possibility was perpetually and joyously beyond reach.

Babitz and Amis don't seem to be writing this sort of thing anymore. The others are dead. And today just a glance at the links curated by artsjournal or bookforum feels like a return to the dreaded back pages of Christianity Today. Does your favourite author/director/performer/impresario meet the conditions on the expanding checklist? Do they express and adhere to The Truth, clearly and unambiguously? If not, then to the curb.

Eyeh — instead of complaining, Prajer, why don't you just do?

Yes, yes — to be sure. I promise to try. I'm just saying it's an increasingly lonely business.
Pass me the eggnog, ladies, won't you?

Links: believe it or not, it's Andrew Sullivan's latest that has me ruminating so. And the inverted Manet is by Mara McAfee, found here.

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