Art that wounds and transforms

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply. . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”–Franz Kafka

 

Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure. Art gives you pleasure but leads to transformation. It awakens you rather than just satisfies a craving. –Makato Fujimura (I think*)

 What does it mean for art to wound and transform? What does it mean when dealing with ugly, evil things, such as suicide (my first novel) or sex trafficking (my WIP)? The beauty comes not in the evil but in the possibility of redemption and hope for those caught in these horrors. I firmly believe there is always hope and always the possibility of redemption, even when things are bleak.

I’m recalling a story I heard of a professor in a difficult marriage; wife was mentally ill or had dementia, something like that. He told his students not to feel sorry for him. Instead, he chose to remind himself of truth. At any given moment, he looked around for seven things in his physical world that reminded him of God’s presence. A beautiful tree, perhaps, or other things.

 And I recall walking in a museum room and being overwhelmed by a beautiful painting. Blue, with flecks of real gold in the paint. A verse from the Bible in it. It was such a brilliant, wounding, transformative moment. I had been walking through a section of the museum with some very dark artwork and to turn the corner (literally) and see this painting took my breath away and made my heart shatter and fly back together in a new configuration. It wounded and transformed.

(I’m easing back into writing with this post. It’s just something I scribbled down in my writer’s journal a week or so ago while contemplating where my current work-in-progress is headed, so it may feel a bit off-the-cuff and random.

 *I couldn’t find a definitive answer to who said this. I found it on Jeff Goins’ blog, who got it from Steven Proctor’s blog, who says he heard it at Makato Fujimura’s Int’l Arts Movement conference a while ago. It sounds like something Fujimura would say, but if it wasn’t him, my apologies to the original speaker.)

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8 thoughts on “Art that wounds and transforms

  1. So glad to see you posting again, Laura. What a beautiful idea. I have always appreciated art that wounds and heals, in many forms, but I suppose I have never put it in such context. Thanks for giving me thoughts to ponder this morning.

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  2. “I firmly believe there is always hope and always the possibility of redemption, even when things are bleak.” great reminder, Laura. Ours is a God who redeems and restores. Even if we don’t see how, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

    Tim

    P.S. I’m excited to see that your WIP is on human trafficking. Jenny Rae Armstrong posted yesterday a guest piece I wrote stemming from a human trafficking conference my son and I just attended; today she posted a follow-up giving resources people can use. I hope you’ll go over and take a look. I’d love to get thoughts from someone who knows the subject (and I know Jen would love to read your thoughts too if you decide to comment!).
    http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com/2012/06/12/rape-drugs-roadside-stands-and-human-trafficking-there-are-no-innocent-bystanders/

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  3. Yes there is always hope, even if our lives go down paths we never considered and might not have chosen give the choice; life is tough for some of us, those without work, those living in rundown areas, those without access to education or better life-chances generally; yes, life can be hard. But there is always hope; sometimes I think God allows even those He has called to endure (for a season anyway) hardship, depression, things just not going so well, and just they way life can be for all of us, so that we can empathise with other people going through real hardship in their lives.

    It’s certain that we all have suffered in some way, or are suffering in some way, but it’s also almost certain that most of us can count our blessings too. I feel depressed at this time and I can’t really say why, I just feel under the weather so to speak. But there are people worse off than me. I think we always need to get back to the Gospel and learn to lean harder on Jesus.

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    1. “I feel depressed at this time and I can’t really say why, I just feel under the weather so to speak.”

      Prayers being offered by another Tim, my friend.

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    2. “we always need to get back to the Gospel and learn to lean harder on Jesus” –Amen and amen. I’m truly sorry that you’re going through a time of depression; I know that’s hard. Prayers for you!!

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