No Stone Left Unturned: A Short Review of The Wire, Season Two

We begin season two of The Wire with the first of many stark changes from the first season. Jimmy McNulty, our schlub of a heroic, impassioned, murder-case-cracking detective, is now stationed over at the docks. He rides a boat now and, seemingly, has left the world of murder cases for good. Like Lester Freamon before him, McNulty has been banished to an unwanted position due to his unorthodox method of basically having no regard for the chain of command. Unlike Freamon—who had his dollhouse furniture to supplement income and keep his mind occupied—McNulty has trouble living this life. He was built for solving murder cases. And the viewer gets to see exactly what happens when McNulty can’t be involved in a murder case: he disintegrates, self-destructing into more than his usual number of booze bottles and having one-night-stands with several women even as he tries in vain to repair the damage his tornadic personality has wreaked on his marriage. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to us, then, that Fate grants McNulty a bit of a boon (though cruelly twisted) when he finds a floating dead woman in the harbor.

Now, the absolute beauty of the writing in this series is that I’ve just taken a bit to set up the starting position of our main character, but I’ve left out so. much. information. I’ve left out subplots and side stories, small character arcs and arguments. I know that you’ll leave out stuff like that with any short review of a television season, but the key point is that in The Wire none of that information—none of those little side stories and cutaway scenes—is wasted. Even the most mundane scenes serve to simultaneously further the overall plot and develop characters in complex ways. And so when McNulty finds the body of the woman, we’re all expecting him to get reinstated immediately into the murder unit—but instead Rawls stays an asshole and refuses him. Then when the body is linked to a shipping container on the local docks that is found to be full of dead Eastern European prostitutes, we’re sure that the resulting 13 Jane Doe cases will make Rawls bring McNulty back (I mean, I thought for sure he’d do that and stick McNulty on the cases to further ruin his career). But no. Even when, through a series of convoluted but entirely believable police politics, Lt. Daniels winds up with a detail comprised mostly of the old crew from the first season, it takes Rawls like at least half the season to allow Daniels to call up McNulty. So all of this background stuff is there developing tension and thickening the plot, making the characters into actual people that seem real, etc. The writing is nothing short of incredible and I understand why people call this the best television series of all time (and I’m only in the second season!).

But okay. I want to briefly discuss some things that carry over from the first season. I called this piece No Stone Left Unturned because I think the writers successfully deal with, like, everyone from the first season at some point in the story. You got Avon, D’Angelo, and Wee Bey behind bars in their own subplot that ends in D’Angelo’s staged “suicide.” You got Stringer Bell running the Barksdale criminal organization, shacking up with D’Angelo’s wife, ordering the hit on D’Angelo, and making deals with Proposition Joe behind Avon’s back. You got Omar coming in and wreaking havoc on Stringer’s complicated plans, as he is wont to do. And you got Bubbles descending back into his addiction. I was close to getting angry with the writing of this season toward the end, when I thought Bubbles was returning to the show just as a sort of obligation instead of as a useful plot device. But then the writers made even his short appearance matter to the plot. He turns Kima and McNulty onto the Stringer Bell/Proposition Joe dirty dealings, which I can only assume will become more important in coming seasons. And then even the lower-level guys in the Barksdale organization are given a spotlight—the kids in the pit have a solid amount of air time in this season as they progress into pit bosses and, slowly, become Stringer Bell’s favorites (maybe… Bell is a complex dude). The writers truly turn over every stone from the first season and make it all count toward a greater plot. This is something that is extremely difficult to do in any story—and I can only imagine that it is made even more impossible when one is writing for a television series with a set amount of episodes each with their own set amount of airtime.

However much I laud the writers for developing storylines from the previous season, Season Two isn’t simply (or even mostly) a rehash of the first. Instead we’re introduced to the Stevedore’s Union—presided over by Frank Sobotka. These guys have made some deals with “The Greek”—a mysterious man who helms an international crime syndicate—to lose some shipping containers on purpose. One of these containers contains the previously mentioned dead prostitutes, which is the central and case that sets off the slow destruction of everything Sobotka holds dear. (Although, in a mark of true writing brilliance, the case isn’t actually the central conflict—that honor belongs to the dispute between Valchek and Sobotka over the Stevedore’s Union putting up a stained glass window in a local church when Valchek wanted the police union to have their own window put up instead). But even though the specifics have changed, I want to talk about what I see as the pattern that the writers of this show are trying to draw to our attention with the first two seasons. That is, I want to talk about the fact that the true villains in the first two seasons—the ones who aren’t really humanized and who seem like almost pure avatars of evil—are the sort of white collar guys high up the food chain. In the first season, we know that certain corrupt politicians are bank-rolling Barksdale and are thus behind his ascent to the top of the West Side criminal element. But those folks aren’t punished—ever. In the second season, we see the Greek and his sidekick—Spyros—drinking tea out of expensive teacups in expensive restaurants while eating expensive food and drinking expensive wine and laughing even at the end of the season when they’ve had to take a loss on the whole dock-smuggling enterprise. Even after their primary muscle—the Russian-whose-name-is-not-Boris—is locked up; even after Frank Sobotka’s loose-cannon of a son has killed one of their primary associates. These men are the monsters of the show, and I think I know why. The reason we feel so strongly about the Greek and Spyros and the mostly faceless politicians in the first season is complex—but, I contend, it is not solely because they escape justice. Rather, one of the main reasons we hate them has to do with the humanization of the lower-level guys like D’Angelo and the Sobotkas, and it has to do with how the top-tier—the white collar guys—operate.

In the first two seasons, we’ve seen the “villains” like Sobotka and D’Angelo do horrible things. They sell drugs; they lose containers full of women (I mean, who knows how many of those poor women actually went through the process and, instead of dying alone in a container, ended up in sex slavery); they obstruct the work of police trying to bring to justice people responsible for murder. These are not good people. But what we learn in the process of watching the show is that they have some good motives. Though their circumstances and specifics are different, both of them (as well as Ziggy and Nick Sobotka, and all the other minor-league criminals in the show, as far as I can tell) are doing these things to better the lives of their loved ones. Frank is maybe a better example of this, as D’Angelo is shown in the first season to be a bit obsessed with flash and his own wealth (spending hours picking out the right outfit to wear, for instance). And what makes season two interesting is that Frank is simply trying to earn more work for his union brothers so that they can all make a living. He’s not even trying to get rich! He’s trying to make it possible for men to use the skills they’ve honed over decades to continue to… get by. He gets thrown in over his head, and he knows there is no excusing what he’s done (see the scene in the second-to-last episode in which he tells Ziggy “you’re more like me than you think”), but he’s trying his best to work with the only options he thinks he has.

So that’s why we end up hating the higher-ups. Not only do they use poverty as a weapon (setting up a system in which it makes sense for young black men to sling dope because it’s one of the few ways they can make good money; offering money to a union president for his silence and cooperation when they know he needs the revenue), but the way they deal with poverty is the way they deal with everything. They find weaknesses and, instead of trying to help people fix those weaknesses, they exploit them. They back people into corners because they know the instinct to survive will force those cornered people to do anything regardless of moral conviction—and they know two other things: 1) that once a person has done one illegal act, they have leverage over that person and can make him continue to do illegal acts, and 2) that when the police come cracking down on the system, it’s the ones who have actually physically done the crimes who will get punished and they—the white collars—will get away. What I like about this show is that it doesn’t shy away from these realities. I’m sure that every single viewer rejoiced when Nicky Sobotka was shown the picture of Spyros and some suited person, paused, pointed to a seemingly unimportant person in the foreground, and said “Wait a minute. That’s the Greek.” And I’m sure every viewer harbored the hope that the big bad guys were about to be taken down. But the show knows how the real world works, and the real world doesn’t conform to our hopes. In real life, the men who exploit weakness for personal gain—the men who have become so politically powerful, so extraordinarily wealthy—are not caught. (Side note: if you read history, you’ll see that these folks are sometimes caught and dealt with, but like with Bernie Madoff this is almost exclusively the case when they have harmed the money of some other equally guilty wealthy one-percenter).

If I sound bitter here, that’s a good thing. This show is supposed to make you feel bitter. The aim is to take a look at how the real world works and to see the horror involved. The writers make you understand the Sobotkas and D’Angelos (and even the Avons) even when you don’t like them, and this makes you feel for them to at least a small extent. You begin to ask yourself questions like “If I grew up in inner city Baltimore and saw people slinging dope and making bank, would I join them?” or “If I was entrusted with the livelihood of dozens of other men, and someone approached me with the amount of money necessary to make the right political contributions that would result in more work for my union brothers, would I do it?” And once you start realizing that these blue-collar guys aren’t all that different from us non-criminals—that they want the same things that we want and wind up with their backs to the wall, weaknesses exploited—you start realizing that the problem is really the system of the world. The problem is that in our societies it is more profitable to exploit people than to help them. And, like a chain reaction, that realization leads to the idea that the only way for real change to occur is for those in power—and therefore those who have benefitted the most from the current system—to decide to change the system. Obviously this leads to bitterness, because the chances of that happening are virtually nonexistent. Like the Baltimore Police Dept. in The Wire, we wind up with case after case of the same crap. Even if we solve them, more crop up faster than we can deal with. And, as the BPD’s higher-ups repeatedly express in the show, our goal shifts to just carving out the best career for ourselves—it becomes less about fixing the problems and more about learning how to ignore them long enough to maybe better our own lives. And so, subtly, we become the exploiters and buy into the system that has corrupted so many.

On that cheery note, I’ll leave you. I’d discuss a bit about the father/son themes and dynamics in this season (mostly concerning the extended Sobotka family), but that stuff is always especially emotional and I’d probably end up crying. Anyway, on to season three! Maybe the third season will show some progress for the moral development of the system itself. One can hope. One can always hope.

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Reading Art and the Bible – Pt. 6

During my latest reading of Schaefers “Art and the Bible”, I came across another profound thought for the christian artist. He explains it as the two themes, the major theme, and the minor theme.

The minor theme being the lostness of man, his sin, his near absurdity.

…the minor theme is the abnormality of the revolting volting world. This falls into two parts: (1) Men who have revolted from God and not come back to Christ are eternally lost; they see their meaninglessness in the present and they are right from their own standpoint. point. Neitzsche can say that God is dead and Sartre must follow along, showing that man is dead, and Sartre is right from his own perspective. (2) There is a defeated and sinful side to the Christian’s life. If we are at all honest, we must admit that in this life there is no such thing as totally victorious living. In every one of us there are those things which are sinful and deceiving and, while we may see substantial healing, in this life we do not come to perfection.

The Major theme being the hope of the Gospel.

The major theme is the opposite of the minor; it is the meaningfulness and purposefulness of life. From the Christian viewpoint, this falls into two headings, metaphysics and morals. In the area of metaphysics (of being, of existence, including the existence of every man) God is there, God exists. Therefore, all is not absurd. Furthermore, man is made in God’s image age and so man has significance. With this comes the fact that love, not just sex, exists. True morals, as opposed posed to only conditioning, exist.

He then makes the point that the christian artist should accurately portray both of these themes in their work. Too much emphasis of the minor theme in most cases produces art that isn’t quite true. But he says the for the converse. Too much of the major theme without the minor creates a romanticism.

So, we know that art will always portray at least portions of a worldview, and if that’s true, then the christian’s would, logically, portray these major and minor themes that Schaeffer lined out for us.

Perhaps the issue with Schaeffer’s proposition here is the fact that Christian must always at some point reach the conclusion of the major theme.  This seems true, but… Why doesn’t this apply to other professions? Must christians always at some point show or make explicit the major theme?  A christian should proclaim the gospel, but is it a requirement for them to do so through their work?  Perhaps the artist is a unique profession that requires this sort of arrangement. And Schaeffer even nods at this fact:

A Christian businessman who does not operate on the basis of compassion does not live within the biblical norms of economics, and the Christian artist who only concentrates on the abnormality of the world is likewise not living by the law of love.

Something to think about, for sure.

In my personal life, I find this to be a good guideline.  What am I focusing on today, the destructive fallen world, or God’s grace?

The musings continue. Only a few more pages to the end of the book!

ML Candelario Watches ‘The Wire’ 13 Years Too Late

Over a decade after the show initially aired, I—ML Candelario—have finally started watching The Wire. Though my being behind the times is not news, it does allow me to embark upon what I’ve been told is one of the most amazing rides in television history with a certainty that the plot is going somewhere. The Wire has been called, by several of my personal friends and by many in the wider world, ‘one of the greatest shows of all time’—and I get to sit down and watch it knowing that there is an endgame, that the show is working toward some sensible, poignant conclusion. It’s not going to be another Lost debacle (don’t get me started on why I’m still bitter over that show). Lord knows I’m glad it won’t be another Firefly. Anyway, my plan is simple. I’ll write something like this after finishing each season’s finale. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on The Wire: Season One.

I like to start with the bad stuff, but there isn’t much here that fits that category. Perhaps I’m giving the show too much nostalgia-credit—you know, the leeway we give to shows that are objectively poor in quality and yet somehow subjectively wonderful after a decade or so has passed. Perhaps I’m looking at the early 2000s with rose-colored glasses and allowing certain camera angles and weird lighting to slide by unnoticed. But you know what: I don’t see much here to criticize. And that’s not just because a lot of my friends pressured me into thinking this is the best show ever. Actually, I’m sure my friends would tell you that I’m often contrary—sometimes to a fault. I can certainly tell from the look of the show that it first aired in 2002, but that doesn’t really detract from its beauty. But let me tell you what I loved about this first season.

I come from a middle-class family in eastern North Carolina. I’ve never bought or sold drugs, never killed anyone, never even seen a prostitute in the flesh. What I’m saying is that I have no right whatsoever to judge this show on the accuracy of its depiction of such things. I can’t tell you whether or not it gets the streetlife right, because I’ve never lived the streetlife. But the aspects of the show that I can judge are the quality of its writing, the performances of the actors, and the resonance of its story. Let it be known that I’m writing this at a time when the Baltimore riots/protests have been going on for a couple weeks and in cities all across the USA there are minorities who feel (not without justification, I might add) that their law enforcement and legal proceedings are slanted against them, that their justice system does not reflect their own best interests. In short, I’m watching this show at a time in which the whole nation is feeling the cuts of the kind of institutionalized racism that leads to tragedies like The Wire’s characters’ lives. Like D’Angelo’s mother tells him, if it wasn’t for ‘the game’ (read: selling drugs, killing enemies and snitches, and otherwise profiting off of the vices of others), his family would be living in the projects, looking for scraps. So as I talk about this show, as I watched it, and as I listen to the news reports coming out of Baltimore, I have to ask myself: why is that? And why is it that McNulty—certainly the show’s protagonist despite having that ‘anti-’ prefix attached to his ‘hero’ role—why is it that he chafes so much at the FBI’s willingness to let Avon Barksdale and his lieutenants off easy in exchange for the politicians in league with Barksdale’s organization?

Another word on that. I just watched the season finale, obviously, and one thing I really dig about the way the writers chose to close out the first season is that they show the snake regrowing its head. We think the police have D’Angelo all sewn up—he’s going to give them Stringer Bell and Avon and Wee Bey, they’re all going to do some serious time—but in the end we’re left with Stringer on the outside running the organization (which is, as Avon so succinctly puts it, “not dead”), D’Angelo apparently deciding not to cooperate and thus the one truly relatable criminal character (who I think is McNulty’s true foil, his equal and opposite half, sort of the hero-anti to McNulty’s anti-hero) gets locked up for 20 years while his cousin the kingpin gets a mere seven, and Wee Bey avoiding Death Row by giving up a string of murders that he’s done and thereby closing cases for the homicide unit (and yet one of the murders he cops to is the murder of state’s witness Gant, which means there is going to be some complication in the trial of Bird, who was [rightly] charged with Gant’s murder in the first place). All this is not by accident. It is, I think, the point of the whole season. Look at McNulty at the end of that trial, sitting outside the courtroom where the people he has been tailing for months are finally being sentenced. Does he look happy? No. He slouches. He looks a bit drunk. Dazed. I submit that it is not just because he has been demoted to the Marine Unit. It’s because he realizes that the entire case was pointless. The organization will live on, and though some people are behind bars, others will rise up to replace them. Why? Now, maybe McNulty doesn’t get this, and maybe this part is just my wild political leanings coming into play and has nothing to do with what the writers intended, but I submit that this phenomenon is because McNulty and his unit did not give the case to the Feds. Had they done so, perhaps some of the politicians—the real people at the top—are arrested. Perhaps others become scared that if they take bribes and launder money from drug dealers and crime lords, they too will be arrested. And thus perhaps the system changes and we start making it less profitable for the D’Angelos of the world to fall in line with the Avons. Perhaps.

I’ve hit on this already, but let’s talk about the characters and why they seem so relatable and real. The acting is fantastic, blah blah blah. This is known. But: Is there a single character in this show who isn’t severely flawed—is there a single one who comes off as a paragon of virtue? I don’t think so. Maybe Kima. Maybe. (As I write that, though, I think about how all the other characters have serious flaws and aren’t totally ‘good guys,’ and I think about how much progress we’ve made in the past decade and a half in the treatment of homosexual people, and I hope very much that Kima’s being a lesbian wasn’t supposed to be her ‘flaw,’ but I’ll leave that unexplored). McNulty is obviously anti-heroic. He has his kids tail Stringer Bell—a man who McNulty knows has ordered the deaths of numerous people. He’s an adulterer with no respect for authority—even when respect for authority ought to be warranted. Like, it’s easy to champion McNulty when Rawls is being an asshole. But McNulty is also a complete jerk to people when they’re just trying to do their jobs and advise caution—and it turns out caution might have been warranted, what with Kima’s near-death and all. The Lieutenant apparently committed some embezzling in his old unit and has come into lots of money as a result. Pryzbylewski—just a side note, probably the character with whom I identify more than any other—is a bit unhinged and (I submit) wants to fit in so much that he ends up coldcocking a teenager with his gun and making the kid go blind in one eye, and then is unable to even look the kid in the face afterward. Our two comedic-reliefsters—Herc and Carver—steal money from the unit, Carver is a snitch to the Deputy, and Herc holds his new Sergeant rank above Carver’s head in a way that seems utterly coldhearted and dickish. You have your two old near-pensioners in the beginning, one of whom is an alcoholic and both of whom are trying to scam the system into getting early pension. The one man unanimously identified as ‘good police’ is Lester Freamen, and he seems to start dating or having some kind of ethically immoral relationship with an informant. All of the higher-ups in the show are more concerned with reputation and promotions than they are with solving actual crimes (until a policewoman is shot, and even then they do a hash of the job). What we’ve got from the very beginning of the show is a situation that Lieutenant Daniels explains to Carver in the finale: whatever game the higher-ups show their subordinates, that’s the game those subordinates will play.

Now, I’ve already been talking about this next point I’m about to make. It’s wrapped up in the rest of The Wire—which, side note: this sort of wrapped-up-ness, this convolution in which one topic can’t really be discussed without referencing another topic, is what makes for good television writing; I think the complexity of this story mirrors the complexity of our everyday lives, and yet subtly superimposes a narrative that allows us to retroactively put a narrative on our own lives and thus make sense of our world. Anyway, one thing this show does really well is summed up by Stephen King as an essential rule of writing: KILL YOUR DARLINGS. KILL YOUR DARLINGS. KILL YOUR DARLINGS. I don’t know if the writers were reading George R. R. Martin’s novels back in 2002, but they sure took a page out of his notebook. Kima: shot. Wallace: dead. D’Angelo: locked up for 20 years at the end of the season finale. McNulty: put on Marine Unit duty. I won’t discuss the terrible, awful, no-good, tragic, excruciatingly sad conclusion of the Bubbles storyline. Because I grew to love Bubbles and he became probably my favorite character and he was making all the right choices and it was just bad timing that screwed him over when Kima got shot and dammit why couldn’t you writers have spared just ONE darling for me?

I won’t waste your time anymore with my ramblings. This show is phenomenal and I’m sorry it took me so long to start it. The character development is just astounding. I went from hating Pryzbylewski to feeling sorry for him, to finally identifying with him the most out of all the characters. I went from loving McNulty to feeling ambivalent at best toward him. I went from hating D’Angelo to relating to him, to being proud of him for standing up to his uncle—finally having my heart ripped out when it was revealed that he backpedaled. What I’m saying is… hold onto your butts here, because I’m going to make a really terrible punny-type observation. What I’m saying is that in a show that has black/white relations at its heart, there is not a single character in this who isn’t a variable shade of gray. Everyone is both good and bad, both relatable and hate-able at some point. That’s why the show is good.

Alright, I can hear you laughing as I type this in my livingroom. I know a lot of what I’ve written above will change throughout the show’s duration. For that reason, I won’t be reading or responding to comments here. I want to keep my thoughts my own so that you can get an accurate representation of how I feel after viewing each season.  Stay tuned for Season Two!

 

Reading Art and the Bible Pt. 5 – Forms and Messages (again)

Finally got my nose back into this book. It’s been a crazy few weeks for me, and its been nice to get back into reading about my passions again. Lets take a look at what I’ve read.

Just because something takes the form of a work of art does not mean that it cannot be factual.

Though art in a general sense is subjective, it doesn’t mean that art cannot contain facts.  Let that be clear,

Styles of art form change and there is nothing wrong with this.

Then what about the Christian’s art? Here three things should be stressed. First, Christian art today should be twentieth-century art. Art changes. Language changes. The preacher’s preaching today must be twentieth-century language communication, or there will be an obstacle to being understood. And if a Christian’s art is not twentieth-century art, it is an obstacle to his being heard. It makes him different in a way in which there is no necessity for difference. A Christian should not, therefore, strive to copy Rembrandt or Browning.

…there is no such thing as godly style or ungodly style.

These quotes communicate one of the central ideas of the book. Style is a vehicle. Style can be critiqued, should be critiqued, but one cannot do so under the idea that any style is holier than the other.  Yes and amen.

Schaeffer refers to an example of how ones faith can inform the artists style, though.  T.S. Elliot’s fragmented poetry became less so when he became a christian. He didn’t abandon the style altogether, but his representation of the fragmented modern man had a different spin as a christian, and because of that his style changed slightly. Its amazing and affirming that faith, worldview, can change not just the message of the work, but the style as well. Very cool.

The form in which a world view is given can either weaken or strengthen the content, even if the viewer or reader does not in every case analyze this completely. In other words, depending upon the vehicle you use, something can come across that an audience does not notice and yet will be moving either in the direction of your world view or away from your world view. One must talk at length with the viewer or reader. And as a Christian adopts and adapts various contemporary techniques, he must wrestle with the whole question, looking to the Holy Spirit for help to know when to invent, when to adopt, when to adapt and when to not use a specific style at all. This is something each artist wrestles with for a lifetime, not something he settles once and for all.

The point he makes here is that the form of the art can either make clear or convolute the message of the work. And that the christian should be careful and discerning of what techniques and forms to use in order to be effective.  My thoughts on this are more complicated than a simple agree or disagree.

He is right in that form is an important factor in communication.  Most avant-garde pieces are harder to communicate specifics in their form due to their off-beat and challenging natures.  This is true.  I disagree with the implication behind the statement, and its very weird that he’s said something like this after spending some time in the beginning of the book dispelling this misnomer.  Schaeffer is implying, not only that the message should be at the forefront, which some would disagree with, but he is implying that christians should be putting the christian message at the forefront, which I can assume that the message would be the christian gospel. Now, I’m not necessarily against that by itself, but I’m against it if it is only by itself. Does that make sense?

If all I’m doing as an artist is preaching the gospel through my art, am I an evangelist or an artist? Why not be both? Because the best art communicates emotion and questions rather than telling someone what they should think. So. I think that while the gospel certainly has room within an artists repertoire of communicative messages, it’s not effective if that’s all they are saying.  Show me who you are, artist, not just what you think is true.

So my reaction to Schaeffer’s comment on form is an interesting one, I agree with the words he said, but from the sense I get behind them, I think he’s implying that christians who are artists should be focusing solely on the christian message, which is not good.  There are multiple facets to humanity, why limit what you can say?

The Worship Collective Discusses: Worship Music – What’s the Goal?

Last Post we discussed why we have music in our worship services in the first place.  We concluded that music possess an uncanny ability to draw out and communicate deep human emotion. And by doing so yields the ability to teach and associate thoughts and feelings with the different characteristics of God.

So we have a good foundation. Now lets build our living areas.

What is the goal of worship music? 

Questions to ponder as you read. What is the music trying to achieve? When you attend a worship service, what is the church trying to say/do/promote when they play the music they play? Are all churches striving for the same end? Are all the various styles of music any better than the others in trying to achieve they’re respective goals?

I can’t go further without showing you a fantastic answer I received the other day. I had asked an orthodox friend of mine how he would answer these questions, as I am not as familiar with their liturgies. He provided a statement that his church puts in one of their pamphlets:

“(Our) worship is based on Scripture and the traditions of the
church, and is driven by God’s saving activity through Jesus Christ
in the power of the Holy Spirit. First and foremost, the point of
liturgy is an encounter with God. Everything else, even good things
like learning the Bible, is secondary. Our liturgy is meant to involve
the whole church (not just the pastor or musicians) and to involve the
whole person (body, mind, spirit), because we believe that God saves
all of us (every aspect), and that he saves us together. So the goal
for worship is the full, active, and conscious participation of everyone
present. This can take some time. At times your prayerful participation
will be helped more by following along in this liturgy guide. However,
if you find yourself getting caught up in the performance and
forgetting that it’s prayer, you may find that it helps to put the book
aside and prayerfully listen. There’s no wrong way to engage, so long
as you come with an open heart and an open mind.”

At the forefront of this church is making sure that you are encountering God through their liturgy. The sermons, the reading and response, the music, all of it is there to ensure and encourage an encounter with God.  Isn’t that the point? Isn’t all of creation here to revere God? Our worship is meant to be an offering of respect, reverence, and love for God. This is how we encounter him. Music at a worship service should attempt to encounter God.

It involves the whole church (!), and not just the musicians and pastors.  This is a huge point! The congregation plays a huge part in the worship service. We are a body of believers, not merely individuals. So the music, and the worship service, strives to include everyone in the worship of God. Granted, successfully drawing everyone in and leading them to an encounter with God doesn’t always happen. And that’s okay, I don’t think God depends on us being perfect. But they should strive to. This isn’t about numbers, feelings, showcase, or artistry. First and foremost, we all need to see, hear, and experience God.

Now, think about how incredibly different and unique humankind is. Think about the cultures that differ so greatly from ours.  There isn’t a single way to unify the experience of worship for the entirety of the human race. So trying to find a “one-size-fits-all” approach to worship is a hopeless task.  Cultures, and people groups have different interests, talents, slants, and desires. They need to fit the needs of these peoples.

But even within these gatherings, there are so many unique individuals with different tastes.  Some might find the contemporary worship service lackidasical and distracting, while others within the same congregation finds that this worship is inspiring and beautiful to their ears. Who’s to say they are wrong? How do we solve this problem?

I don’t have a giant solution, but I do think that pastors need to listen to their people. I think that churches should constantly evaluate what they are doing in terms of music and worship as a whole. Is this helping people encounter God? Does this style of music get too familiar? are we going through the motions? Has this become solely about the music?

I think worship leaders and pastors need to be creative in this regard. If the goal is to encounter God, then find what helps do that the best. I’m not one to judge the style of worship service of any particular church, but I can judge whether they have held on to their favorite style rather than what revere God through the music.

All this to say that really, God loves when we worship him, the music style is secondary. Revere him. Encounter him. Love him. Worship him, whatever that looks like. Just be mindful of others. That’s all.

Worship Collective Discusses: Worship Music – Why Music?

Finally. We’re talking worship music. One would think that with the word “Worship” in our name that we would be at the forefront of the worship music conversation, right? While we mostly concern ourselves with the interweaving of artistry and faith, worship music is a topic we’ve wanted to discuss but have pushed off due to an ever present dread over the genre. I attribute this to the fact that the opinions are vast, expansive, amorphous and slippery on the subject matter. There’s no way to address the state of  worship music in one post, but there is a way to break this down into three different questions:

Why do most churches use music in their services?

What is the goal of worship music?

How important is performance and aesthetics? 

Think about them before you go further. What do you think? Your answers (and mine) will/should overlap. 

Why do most churches use music in their services? 

Here’s a good place to start. Why music? Why has this artform been so integral in the liturgies of orthodox and evangelical churches alike? And for so long!? Why not anything else, like visual art, photography, or what have you? I posed this question to a few of my musician friends who I thought could provide insight. Here was a response that I thought was interesting:

 

“…I would say a deeper reason is that song/poetry seems to be the preeminent way of expressing human emotion.  As far as I know, all cultures throughout human history have had some form of singing. And in the case of Christianity, in many ways it is its own culture.  It has its own worldview, a specific vision of what the universe is about: namely, humanity becoming reconciled to God through his Son.”

 

All cultures throughout history have had music. Interesting. There must be something about this artform that is communal and unifying. But one could argue that lots of artforms are communal. Look at theatre or film.  The audience plays a big role in both of those forms and require some sort of community effort just like music does. So what distinction does music have that the church has grabbed a hold of?

Consider this:

I recently watched the documentary Alive Inside, about which a man seeks to give the gift of music to many dementia and alzheimers patients.  What he found is that while these patients’ brains were deteriorating, music had an effect on awakening memory and emotion. (It’s a fantastic film, and you should see it. Check it out on Netflix.)

But isn’t this true of those who do not carry these illnesses? If I played a song that played during your high school days, would you not immediately recall some specific memories of that time? Has a song ever reminded you of a trip? A relationship? A feeling? Music has the innate ability to stick with us and help the brain recount memories. Which is another reason why music is often used, as a quasi-teaching method.

Some lessons, ideas, themes, have been communicated most effectively through song. I’m going to throw out a few lines to prove my point. See if the song doesn’t immediately play in your head.

Times they are a changin,

Let It be,

Fight the power,

Baby you’re a firework,

See what I mean? I had to throw Katy Perry in there because shes too good to not. The point being that perhaps you don’t know every lyric to these songs, but you were able to think of at least one of these songs based solely on one line that speaks the message of the song.

Churches, then, capitalize on the strong emotive nature of music, and its ability to implement itself in the brains of its congregates. They simply find that singing and playing music is a natural response to hearing, understanding, and learning the gospel.  The songs also serve to teach certain doctrines and theologies that help drive home the emotional impact of the truths.

“Whatever my lot /  thou hath taught me to say / It is well with my soul”

“I once was lost, but now am found / was blind, but now I see”

“From life’s first cry, to final breathe / Jesus commands my destiny”

I literally rattled these off the top of my head. It’s helpful to use the songs, and the accompanying emotions attached to the songs to grab hold of the implications of the teaching.

So why music? It’s an aid. It’s a tool. It communicates a message. It communicates a feeling.  It’s a device by which the church uses to help its congregates encounter God.  This. This is key. This is why music.

 

A Conversation Concerning Advice For Writers


how I came to think about these things

Every Friday, in a small back room at a local restaurant, I meet with a group of men to discuss issues like religion, philosophy, politics, economics, art. Et cetera, et cetera. We recently had a conversation that is, I think, especially relevant to The Worship Collective. One of my cohorts—a visual artist whose privacy I’ll respect by keeping him anonymous—began to speak about literature. This eventually developed into a discussion on the difficult bits of our respective arts. We asked ourselves why it was so difficult to give advice about how to make quality art. Though we didn’t reach a clear consensus, the discussion was intriguing. I’ve boiled down some of the conclusions at which we arrived, and I’ve added some extras of my own. This isn’t necessarily a list of Mike’s Ten Quick Steps to Make Good Art.  Instead, this article is more about the concept of giving and receiving advice on your art-making. It’s about what kind of advice to take and what kind of advice to ignore. In short: it’s kind of a window into my own personal grapplings with how to become a better writer. And so it’s all highly subjective and anyway let’s just jump in.

the experience of my visual artist friend

My friend’s most lauded painting was completed in just over an hour. On a six-foot canvas. That’s a lot of canvas to cover in one hour, which means he worked hurriedly and let the process take hold of him. He went with the flow, responded to the inner muse. However you want to slice it, he didn’t do much revision. He didn’t do much tinkering. But here’s the thing: he might have. This piece was done while my friend was still in art school, and his professor was standing over his shoulder watching him paint. At a certain point, while my friend continued to slave away at the painting, his professor put a hand on his shoulder and whispered ‘Stop.’ His professor recognized the work as being finished—even as my friend, the artist, was still adding to it. There are many lessons one might take away from this, but I think perhaps the most important one—the one that is really going to shape this particular article—is that there simply isn’t one set method for making your art. Art is subjective. There is no list of advice I can give you to make your writing a surefire piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps there is a formula to sell a lot of books, but selling something is wholly distinct from making good art. Believing in the prevailing illusion of his art school—that the quality of a work directly correlated to the amount of time spent creating it—my friend would have continued to paint, to tweak the image, and—in his own words—‘would have ruined it.’ My friend learned his second big lesson after art school, once he’d begun to meet with a group of artists at a local artist’s home. We’ll call the owner of the house ‘Zelda.’ Zelda is a brilliant portrait artist, my friend says. She can paint a portrait like no other. Beautifully grand, technically solid, absolutely stunning portraits. But when Zelda won a local contest and had her artwork displayed in a gallery, it took my friend a few passes to figure out which one was hers. Here was a portrait that had been chosen by a panel of other artists for its glory, its technical mastery, its superiority to all other works of art in that gallery. And my friend walked right past it several times. This is the lesson my friend came away with: you can work all your life to be unbelievably good at the technical side of art… and yet still make art that is utterly forgettable, art that doesn’t draw you in. You can have a brilliant understanding of what makes good art, and even have the ability to put that understanding into practice, and still make art devoid of feeling and spirit. Now, I’m not saying (and my friend wasn’t saying) that Zelda makes that kind of art—that she doesn’t pour her soul into her work. Quite the contrary. I’m sure she does. But my friend realized that he could spend his days trying to emulate Zelda, would probably never be as good at portraiture as she is, and would have wasted his life on art that doesn’t move him. So my friend combined these two lessons: 1) his best artwork was raw and unfiltered, took a short time to create; 2) portraits and artistic realism (what he calls ‘objective art’) are not moving to him in the slightest, do not represent his soul in an adequate way. The combination of those two lessons led him to the realization that abstract art is more his thing. He revels in abstraction, in getting paint to work on the canvas in such a way as to create within the viewer an emotional experience—not just to represent some object in the world. For him, these two lessons resulted in a profound revelation about his life, about his art. And, I contend, it is only when we have such a revelation that we can understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish with our art. Which leads me to

what artists get out of art-making

Don’t worry, folks. I won’t rehash the old discussion we’ve had on this blog about what art is and what it does to the human psyche. It suffices to say that we here at The Worship Collective tend to view art as, essentially, a form of communication. We tend to see artists as communicators. And so the first thing that artists get out of creating artwork is communication—a connection with the recipient of the art. But the more important product of art-making is a sense of fulfillment. What do I mean by ‘fulfillment?’ That’s a good question, and perhaps the word I’ve used is the wrong one. I like using the word ‘fulfillment’ for rhetorical reasons, but it has the sense of, well, filling something up until it is full. Which is precisely the opposite of what I mean when I talk about what artists get out of art-making. I tend to see art as a pouring-out, a spilling of oneself. A release, if you will. So the chief end of an artist is to find that which is within herself, and then to spill it out. This echoes the idea of communication, but it is a distinctly different beast. The communication occurs when one’s audience sees what one has spilled out and subsequently connects to it, recognizes in that spillage something that is also within them. Long before such communication occurs, the artist has already been fulfilled by the pouring-out of herself. This is why my friend could not feel good about painting ‘objective art,’ even had everyone around him loved his portraits. Realism is not what is within him waiting to be spilled. If he so desired, I’m sure he could learn all the technicalities and brushstrokes that lead to brilliant portraits. But he would not have spilled out the essential parts of him that drew him to art in the first place. In colloquial street slang, he would not be ‘real.’ He’d be putting on airs, putting up a front. In short, art allows us to do as Judy Garland instructed: ‘be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.’ My friend ultimately decided that, although he could certainly learn some important techniques from Zelda, he didn’t want to spend his time copying her and other artists. He wanted to make art that was supremely and uniquely his own.

 how all of this applies to me as a writer

The internet is brimming with advice for writers. Just do a google search right now and see for yourself. I’ll wait. See? So many folks out there want to write about what it takes to be a good or successful writer. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the number of actual successful writers is probably way lower than the number of people writing about what it takes to be a successful writer. Make of that what you will. Here’s the thing, though: much of the advice is contradictory. Sure, some of the advice is great and nearly universal (‘to be a writer you have to write,’ ‘shut off your inner editor while you’re drafting’). But many of the details differ from person to person—and sometimes even render each other logically incompatible. The obvious example is the feud between Hemingway and Faulkner. Faulkner famously said that ‘[Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.’ Hemingway’s response? ‘Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?’ Here are two renowned authors—veritable literary giants—and their views on writing could not be more opposite. Or take this example, on an admittedly much less bile-filled scale: Neal Stephenson is known to handwrite his books. That’s an insane amount of handwritten pages, by the way. He claims that it helps in the editing process. However, my friend Hugh (a successful indie author in his own right) sees it differently. For him, the tactile feel of having both hands typing away on a keyboard helps stimulate both parts of his brain. His typed work is much better than his handwritten work, from what he’s told me. Now, my conclusion about this is that the contradictory advice stems from the fact that we are all individuals. We are all of us different beasts with different inner lives. And since art is, in my view, spilling out what is inside you, obviously having different inner lives is going to result in glaringly different views about what constitutes good art—or even about how to make art in the first place. So to circle around back to the question that started all of this, What part of writing do I find the most difficult? I’d say that it is to know oneself, to know what is inside you fighting to be spilled out.

  how to go about writing, the ML Candelario way

When talking about actual writing advice, it is tempting to jump right into the specifics: how to capture the feel of real conversation in one’s dialogue, or how to make characters develop while not being too on-the-nose, or how to progress a story so that every scene follows by ‘therefores’ and ‘buts’ instead of ‘thens’ and ‘ands.’ All of these points are valid weapons in the writer’s arsenal, and I direct the reader to an essay by Film Crit Hulk that discusses much of this within the context of screenwriting. But that’s not the scope of this specific article. Here are my four key pieces of advice for the modern writer.

  1. Know Thyself {this is virtually impossible}

As the Bard once told us, ‘this above all: to thine own self be true.’ If you’re making art, you must discover what moves you. You must learn what is inside you. Further advice does not matter in the slightest until this point is made, because all subsequent advice is about how to structure your words and sentences to maximize the point you are trying to express. If you don’t know what you want—what you need—to express, it does you no good to know how to express it. You’re still left with nothing. So for now, learn from Bukowski: ‘Find what you love and let it kill you.’ Do not let the mystery stop you. The more you write, the closer you’ll get to your own soul.

  1. Learn the Rules {this is a Sisyphean task}

What do I mean by the ‘Rules?’ Learn proper grammar and syntax. Learn how the written English language is ‘supposed’ to function. This is a stuffy business, and I confess that I don’t find much pleasure in it. I’m not very diligent or particularly good at studying the Rules, but I’m getting better. I will continue to learn new facets of ‘acceptable’ writing styles until I die (hence the ‘Sisyphean’ tag on this point). But don’t limit yourself to just the rules of language. Learn about story—about character development, story progression, tropes, archetypes, etc. Study the rhythms of speech in order to improve your dialogue. Read other authors whose works inspire you. Glean from them their tricks of the trade. Continue to do this until you are buried.

  1. Break the Rules {this is dangerous}

Yeah, I know. You expected this one after Advice Number Two. But seriously, the Rules are there to be broken in surprising, story-enhancing, reader-enriching ways. I love the writing of David Foster Wallace because of how often and how well (read: how intelligently) he breaks the rules. As I said, though, this is dangerous. Danger comes at you from two directions: 1) the fact that you will be tempted, since I advised breaking the rules, not to learn them in the first place; 2) the possibility of drawing too much attention to your pretentiousness. There can be little pleasure in reading the work of a writer who clearly doesn’t intend to break the rules she breaks. One begins to feel sorry for and intellectually superior to the writer instead of seeing her as an equal worthy of connection. On the other hand,  an author who draws too much attention to her breaking of the Rules, who revels too much in her abilities as a writer (in short, who says too often ‘hey, look how smart I am’) causes the reader to feel intellectually inferior—or to think the author has too high an opinion of herself. All options result in a loss of the connection/communication that is really the whole point of art in the first place. So the writer fails.

  1. Suffer for Your Art and Do Not Be Afraid

Bare your soul. That is, after all, what is fighting to be spilled. People will dislike your work, and—in some sense vital to the artist—will dislike you. Do not apologize for your art. Paint a picture of a woman with her tits exposed. Write the word ‘tits’ and leave it in with purpose. Make your point and do it both intelligently and without shame. In short: be brutally honest with the world. You may not receive the kind of appreciation you crave. You may not be met with the reaction you desire. But I can promise you that the fulfillment will come. The spilling-out will be a release. But this release only happens if you write the things you both need to write and are scared to write. I am afraid of looking foolish. Yet here I am writing yet another piece on advice that many people will discard as nonsense or pretention. Why? Because it is what I needed to write in this moment. That’s not a very dramatic example, but this kind of fear can stop you from doing anything. Do. Not. Let. It. conclusion Perhaps none of that is very helpful. I haven’t given concrete specifics. I haven’t talked about whether or not to listen to music, whether to seclude oneself or to write in a coffee shop. But I hope that you will at least be affirmed in your pursuit of art. I hope that you will realize that none of us knows what he is doing—that all of us are on a journey, getting better (hopefully) as we strive to find the things we love (and to let them kill us). This short essay doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion because art is about being in a state of flux—simultaneously creating things that reflect what’s inside you and learning more about what remains inside you waiting to be expressed. So I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll look back on this and change my mind about the specifics. What will remain, though, is the core: to write well, know yourself and then go about making yourself known to others. Do not let defeat be a refutation of your art. Keep striving and keep evolving. The only consistent person is a dead one. All of those short sentences are trite clichés. But they’re clichés because they signal toward something important and enduring.  Being bad at art is, perhaps, the most important stepping stone to being good at art. And that’s okay.

TWC Podcast – Episode 01 – Art and Death

Robert Cullen’s “Other Cities”

The First Episode is here!  Robert Cullen discusses his latest album “Other Cities,” and what his process is like and where he finds inspiring moments in his music as well as his annual Top 50 Albums of the Year list. We go into to some heavy territory with how death and mortality lends itself to much of his art, but how it helps him come to terms and accept his beliefs.  I also go on a mild rant at the end of the show about some of our previous posts on whether or not depressing content is worth experiencing if it affects oneself too much.

LINKS

1. Robert Cullen’s bandcamp – http://robertcullen.bandcamp.com/

2. Kashiwa Daisuke – http://kashiwadaisuke.com/  (also my favorite song of his https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc1cZ9Ee2eo )

3. ML Candelario’s “Good Art/Bad Subjects

4. Daniel Hansen “A Response to ‘Good Art/Bad Subjects‘”

Anathallo – A Lyric Study

As we continue this series on my favorite songs by my favorite artists, Anathallo takes center stage with the forgotten song “To Gary and Marcus: The Sovereignty of God is Omnipresent.” Or, for the sake of easier reading, “Gary and Marcus.” This is a song that would seriously benefit from a listen to the song before reading the lyrics. Anathallo, especially in their earlier days, were very free form in their song structure and the musical progression lends itself to the emotive lyrics. Check it out:

“To Gary and Marcus: The Sovereignty of God is Omnipresent”

I could not come this time and stand on my feet.
I just thought of you and sank.
“I’m tough, I’m tough,” I told myself,
but I fell apart.

Thin arms cling lightly to my sunken chest.
I hold my breath.
Your sad eyes droop with hopelessness,
and I feel like I’m dying with you.
And I hold your toothpick ribcage.
And I pray aloud into your ear,

“Lord what would you have of me?
To plead before You for this child?
Why does faith seem so foreign to me now?”

Every time I see your beautiful faces
in my thoughts, or in something I see,
may faith stand firm.
Let it grow from grace I have received and know
that this grace abounds to you
so far away.

 

Pretty heavy song, no? Let’s get into it.

Form
1. Rhyme Scheme – I scanned this song about a hundred times trying to find something. And it took some scraping to find two examples of slant rhymes, or rhymes that aren’t technically rhymes but kind-of-sort-of sound similar. Stanza 1 Line 1 has a slant of “time” and “my” and Stanza 2 has a slant on “chest” and “breath.” That’s it. These rhymes serve to bring some sort of loose unity to an otherwise very free form structure. I think it especially helps to have this near the beginning of the song.  It serves to bring the listener along without totally losing them in the radically different foundation of songwriting.
2. Meter – Again, free form. No pattern or repetition to be found, really.  When you listen to the song, though, it’s a hard fact to believe. The lines seem so rhythmic. But that could be because of the great jazz-like music that accompanies the lyrics. If there is a pattern, I can’t hammer it down.
3. Diction/Devices – Alliteration, Repetition. “I’m tough I’m tough I told myself,” and “Thin arms cling lightly…” and “Why does faith seem so foreign…” are great examples. Come to think of it, these devices might be what lends to the “sneaky-rhythm” in the song.  Even in free form, something has to ground the song for it to succeed. I strongly believe its these devices that do it.

On the Diction side of things, we some extraordinary word choice. “Toothpick ribcage” and “sunken chest” evoke strong images. And I was particularly struck in the last stanza where we see Matt Joynt (the lyricist and frontman) refer to God’s “beautiful faces,” a reminder that God has many ways to reveal himself and has “face” in different forms. Love Love Love it.

Themes
1. The Problem of Suffering Children – Joynt lays out a story (no doubt personal) of the narrator looking upon a dying child and wondering what he can do, and how to reconcile this with his faith.  He even expresses his doubts in what he believes, “Why does faith seem so foreign to me now?”  “Lord, what would you have of me?” Questions that are, no doubt, legitimate and worthy of pondering.
2. The Frailty of Humans – While Joynt highlights the awfulness of dying children, he also showcases the frailty of the narrator.  This situation leads him down a path of tremendous frailty and weakness. And just as this child he sings about is sick and dying, so too is his disposition and faith. It’s almost a commentary on physical sickness begetting emotional and spiritual sickness.
3. Beauty in Grace – After the amazing climax in the music after the third stanza, we get a lovely drop out of everything except the tapping of sticks. An auditory signal of stripping everything down to its basics. And as the music does so does the philosophy in the lyrics. Joynt knows that when he gazes upon God’s character, he sees why he believes what he does. His thoughts, his feelings, his experiences remind him of the beauty he finds in the gospel, in the grace of God.  And he takes another leap of faith, admitting he doesn’t have an answer to this child’s death, or have an action of which to take. He simply recognizes and encourages the child, knowing that the grace he has received from God, surely extends to the child.

The song takes a heavy and erratic direction in its structure but takes a deconstructing approach as it reveals the foundation of Joynt’s faith and philosophy: Grace abounds.

Reading Art and the Bible – Pt. 4 “Critiquing Art and Worldviews Separately”

Observations:

1.  Schaefer lays out detailed way to critique art not just for the christian but for everyone. Separating technical achievement and worldview messages is the main distinction here.

We are not being true to the artist as a man if we consider his art work junk simply because we differ with his outlook on life.

Again, something I’ve always tried to explain, and here, it’s validated.  The form and worldview of an art piece should be critiqued and evaluated separately.  Don’t dismiss it because you don’t agree. You might be missing excellence at work. In art school, we were never allowed to say wether or not a piece was good or bad, but rather we were encouraged to say wether or not the piece “works.” I think that type of critique is what Schaeffer gets at here.

2.  He also separates the worldview/form distinction by pointing out that art isn’t sacred.  This point serves the religious more than anyone, but he does a good job reminding the reader that one’s faith takes precedence over any art piece. So if a masterful artist creates a magnificent piece of work and it doesn’t line up with an audience’s worldview, that doesn’t validate or reject either of them.

As Christians, we must see that just because an artist-even a great artist-portrays a world view in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that world view. Art may heighten the impact of the world view, in fact we can count on this, but it does not make something true. The truth of a world view presented by an artist must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness.

The truth of a worldview must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness. I’m stealing that.

3.  After reading a hundred or so pages of this book, I can tell that Schaeffer has an aversion towards the “art-for-art’s-sake” approach to creativity.  And “aversion” might be a strong word for his feelings, because I see him constantly correcting this artistic outlook. His point is more, “Whether you like it or not, what you truly believe shines through the work. Art can’t simply end for the purpose of being.”

Some artists may not know that they are consciously showing forth a world view. Nonetheless, a world view usually does show through. Even those works which were constructed under the principle of art for art’s sake often imply a world view. Even the world view that there is no meaning is a message.

So, even though the intent of no meaning may be present, it still holds a worldview that displays itself in the work. I agree in principle, but the specifics of this still cause me to say “But…but…” Like, what kind of worldview shines through this piece?

“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” by Damien Hirst (1992)

I don’t have an answer. I would agree that a worldview exists, I just can’t see it. (I’m not too familiar with Damien Hirst, but I’m betting one can use the context of his body of work to find out what he centers himself around. We talked about this principle early on in this series! How exciting!)

4.  The greater the artistic excellence, the more impact the message possesses, the more seriously the piece deserves critique. Schaeffer makes the point that often, critique seems to lessen the more excellent the piece. And by critique he means mostly about the worldview of the artist.

We should realize that if something untrue or immoral is stated in great art it can be far more destructive and devastating than if it is expressed in poor art or prosaic statement. Much of the crude art, the common product of hippie communities and the underground press, is laden with destructive messages, but the art is so poor that it does not have much force. But the greater the artistic expression, the more important it is to consciously bring it and its world view under the judgment of Christ and the Bible. The common reaction among many, however, is just the opposite. Ordinarily, many seem to feel that the greater the art, the less we ought to be critical of its world view. This we must reverse.

Lol, hippie hate.

He goes on a long rant about Zen, how the worldview is about becoming nothing, and nothingness is an end goal, how this message had been said in many crude underground settings, (“We believe in nothing, Lebowski!”) and how due to an excellence in hightening the message through artistic beauty, the worldview has had a bigger impact and has had less critique. Interesting thoughts and I can see what he’s getting at. I would say that this is more a testament to the power of art.  It brought validity to the worldview because of the beauty that it showcased.  Good point to say that excellence should always be critiqued, no matter the beauty.