Monday, February 16, 2015

Permanence

Manhattan Island is a wide and deep repository of man's creative produce. Contributions there form a spectrum of the world's great cultures— from the very best of the most immediate expressions to those going back decades, many centuries, even millennia. It is breathtaking in the sweep of its scope. Superlatives can accurately describe these works as monumental, astounding, beautiful.

There are arts ephemeral, and fleeting; creations existing only in the moment–
performance arts (music, drama, oration, dance)– that evaporate into the air as soon as created–
gastronomic, culinary, and vintner arts– as they are experienced are soon down the drain and into the sewer.

And then there are arts more permanent– 
painting, literature, sculpture, architecture– lasting beyond the life of the artist.

Yet in the end, even the most enduring of these arts– architecture– will see its end. On the other side of the globe, although having lasted millennia, so far, the great Pyramids will one day be no more than dust. I am reminded of Shelley's sonnet, written on the occasion of seeing the fragmented monumental statue of Ramesses II:
Ozymandias

"I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

The best of man's creative works can be astounding, but given time, all will fade away and be lost. The only creative works to last beyond the test and erosion of time remain those conceived first in the heart of God. As the human artist (or any human for that matter) consults and cooperates with the Holy Spirit, works can come forth that are not only lasting and durable, but everlasting and of eternal worth.

"For what is your life? Certainly it is a mist, or vapor, that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."  — James 4.14

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