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Finding Beauty in the Chaos
Why We Need Art & Imagination
How do we keep moving forward when we are constantly hit with horrific and devastating news, in our own personal worlds, in global news, or both? What can we do here during our time on earth to keep living joy filled lives and not simply longing for Jesus to return? How do we keep fighting? How do we keep living life in a world full of crushing sadness? What can we do to draw us to and remind us of hope, peace, joy, and His goodness?
One of my favorite stories is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I even recently bought a DVD player (which I haven’t had one in years) so I could watch my DVD set of the 80s version with Megan Follows.
Anne’s character has such a way of capturing hearts through the way she sees the world. In the first book, she says:
“Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
She reminds us of the ways imagination and story invite wonder and awe into our lives. And that’s something we need so deeply. It is that spirit of imagination that helps us create as well. And along with enjoying art, we can find beauty in the chaos. We can feel hope and we can share that with weary souls traveling alongside us. I believe both creating and taking in such work is vital for our humanity and our souls.
In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle writes, “An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in the world. Along with Plato’s divine madness there is also divine discontent, a longing to find the melody in the discords of chaos, the rhyme in the cacophony, the surprised smile in time of stress or strain.”
We can all point to a piece of artistry that shaped us in a small or major way. Whether it was film, music, a painting, or book. Whether it opened our eyes to something new or comforted us is a powerful way.
For me, one such piece was the film Dead Poet’s Society (released in 1989). Set in the 1950s, it’s the story of a new English teacher at an all-boys prep school. John Keating (played by Robin Williams) sets out to inspire his young students through unique and creative teaching.
Dead Poet’s Society was the first movie that opened my eyes to the power of words. While a deeply emotional story, the impact the English teacher has on the students is just one of the reasons it’s such an incredible film that continues to be loved by many. For many of the students, they found their voices for the first time, they tried new things, and would no longer settle for an unfulfilling life.
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Keating is during one of his “lectures,” where he reminds the students: “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.”
This scene always reminds me of the gift that art, literature, and music is to such a burdened world.
This is weaved in God’s story as well. I’ve become so grateful for the short story of Bezalel in Exodus. It’s only a few verses, but from the story we see that from the beginning, God has weaved the importance of artistry in all things.
In Exodus 35, as Moses is delivering instructions from the Lord, we learn of Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur. In verses 30–33, we read “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” Along with Oholiab and those they taught, Bezalel and Oholiab were called to use their creative and artistic skills for the house of worship. Two chapters later, we learn that Bezalel also crafted The Ark. Something which demanded to be so carefully built, was adorned with beauty and drew people to God.
This is God’s design. The beauty that surrounds us points us to hope, joy, peace, and renewal. It helps us to restore what we thought beyond repair, draws us closer to God, and reminds us simply of goodness that is still here on earth.
In Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren writes: “Beauty doesn’t take away the pain of suffering or vulnerability. It’s not like the cicada song or good coffee make it hurt any less to lose a spouse or a friendship, or even just to have a hard day. But in the times when we think anguish and dimness are all there is in the world, that nothing is lovely or solid, beauty is a reminder that there is more to our stories than sin, pain, and death. There is eternal brilliance. It’s not quite enough to resolve our questions or tie anything up in a nice metaphysical bow, but sometimes it is enough to get us through the next hour. And in enduring a mystery, we need just enough light to take one more step.”
So, create. Enjoy. Find the light in the darkness. Point others to the “sudden glimpse of Truth.1”
Beauty found in art helps us remember that we are not alone. That we have hope, even if some wounds won’t be fully healed until we are resting in eternity.
The chaos doesn’t win. There are times it can feel that way, times it seems like that is all that is there, but I believe deep in my soul that in the glimpses of beauty we create with our own hands or what we appreciate from others, means we can hold on to the truth that chaos doesn’t win in the end.
© 2023 Jamie Lapeyrolerie