Monday, December 13, 2010

pangur ban - a tribute to the christians who give the world art

If I had a computer version of the story I'd put the whole thing down here. I don't. But ten years ago I based Pangur Ban on a line from a poem written by a Celtic monastic who spoke about turning darkness into light. It was my tribute to the courage of the Christians who are artists - loved and gifted by God, but often ignored by the Christian churches. They carry on, regardless of the obstacles and a continued lack of support by large portions of Christianity - for Christian churches have a pernicious and unChristlike tendency to cheer only for the artists who are rich and famous - and bring Christ into the earth's darkness by means of dances, photographs, paintings, sculptures, novels, poems, theater, all sorts of music from classical to jazz to blues and rock - in the image of their Creator, they too are creators, and in their labor of creating, they show the world, by the way of light, both redemption and Redeemer.

I have here the ending of the story. The entire piece is found in the collection entitled The Poets of Windhover Marsh.

By the way, Pangur Ban is the name of the monastic's cat.

My own cat, Kokomo, wanted me to be sure and mention that.

Pangur Ban - The Denouement

“We’re not brand new, Simon. We started with Moses’ Tabernacle. No, we started with Creation. We’re artists and God infused us with his power and his Holy Spirit first, from the beginning of beginnings. No matter who tries to bury the real art, even if it’s the churches, just like the understanding of God’s grace and God’s love that we keep losing, it’ll keep on popping up regardless, generation after generation. The superficial and the mediocre won’t disappear while we’re on this earth. But neither will what is deep and profound.”

. . . .

The paintings continued to go up on important walls, the novels continued to be written and sold alongside the other novels of the world. The dancers danced and the actors acted and the music found its way up crescendos and down descants. And photography also came in lines of silver and black and burstings of color, and video and film came, not as teaching tools but as cinema that seized moviegoers by the heart and the soul and the mind. A million and another million who had never listened to a sermon, who had ripped up glossy tracts, who had shunned the bookstores and the concerts and churches of Christians, these – like Marie and Linnea and Cara’s great bronze sculpture of a woman fighting a huge angel, the angel itself with a woman’s face and limbs but with frightening, wondrous wings – these found themselves wrestling with God until a day broke in upon them and filled their windows and doorways with a towering cresset of light so that they finally lived and they finally walked, though with a mortal limp.

And they, the newborn of a hundred nations, crouched offstage, hearts hammering, before they stepped out under the burning lights and spoke their words, they stood before white canvases with their brushes and knives, intimidated and exhilarated, they sat at keyboards or scrawled lines on notepads in green forests and quiet city parks or forgotten corners of forgotten libraries. They wielded blowtorches like Eden’s fire. Faces smudged with paint and grime, they prayed and fought through nights with stone and wood and iron. For the love of God, for the love of the creating, for the love of the freedom, for the love of the world they painstakingly engraved plates, practiced a dance step over and over, filled their lungs and blew riffs with their horn night after night, chiseled marble, mixed rich oils that marked their skin and burned at the edges of their eyes, tossed and turned in sleep that would not come and finally offered their revelations to the blue and turning earth.


LB said...

This is so true (and bittersweet at best). Some years ago, quite a few now, a person reminded me that the God-enabled artists who fabricated the Ark, and whatnot, did so knowing their art was not to be applauded by mankind because it was not for mankind's eye. Humans with unsurpassed, given-by-the-Name creativity and top rung skill... doing one up work... and not being able to display it, wow.

In view of our human penchant for promenading, and other grandstanding, I have found it wise to seek willingness to create, as literally as maturity allows, for an audience of One (I wish it was wholly spiritual, but for me its proven to be a bit of a defense mechanism). However, I adopt a stiff upper and do my best to "let" Him share where and how He will.
Occasionally, every once in a while, I have been able to do some of that.


murray said...

Thanks for taking a moment to interact on this blog as well, William. It is hard to be an artist and a Christian these days, but it's obviously in your spiritual DNA, and not only the global Church needs its artists, but the world needs the Christ artists too. I hope you will post some thoughts on your own website soon and that you will drop by again and share your heart and mind. Christ depth to you.