Archives for category: Essays

Sufjan Stevens is searching for answers...

NPR Interviews and Profiles – Sufjan Stevens: Finding Inner Peace In Traffic. 5:59

Sufjan Stevens has been making news in the past month, just a few weeks ago on Oct 20 he released what can be called an operatic tribute to a stretch of asphalt, The BQE: The Motion Picture Soundtrack — once only the title of the traffic-plagued Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, BQE now boasts itself as an indie music title (isn’t that the way indie works?) — and in some of the interviews and news from Stevens leading up to that release a dark, exhausted theme emerged from the quirky inanity—or brilliance—of making a musical tribute to a highway: Sufjan Stevens may be questioning the nature and purpose of  music and thinking about hanging up his guns. (well, maybe it’s not that extreme…) This is what spending 9 months of your life driving in New York traffic jams will do to you. Read the rest of this entry »

Much of my personal journey as an Artist and a Christian has been the work of healing the assumed and severe dichotomy between these two aspects of my life but as I continue to work out this process I am continually and joyfully surprised by how much work has already been done to shape a well thought out Christian view of Aesthetics, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Traditions of Christianity. Being a child of Protestant, Evangelical culture I grew up under explicit teachings about Catholic fallibility and a implicit suspicion of artistic culture, however, reading things such as this letter from Pope John Paul II, it is hard to keep those old biases in place. Depending on the finer details of one’s own theological position you may find a few things here to take issue with but to base your appreciation of the Pope’s letter on a few minor points such as the divine position of the virgin Mary is paramount to refusing to be kissed by your spouse because of the perfume they are wearing. If it feels that John Paul II tries to tie artists too closely to a Christian ghetto of Biblical imagery I think is only because he seeks so fervently to affirm the divine goodness in the creation of art and that in Biblical imagery (and supremely in the Incarnation) we find a trusted precedent for bringing forth the sacred in the physical and, in some sense, both are magnified in the embrace.


Makoto Fujimura Soliloquies - Joy, 64x80  Minerals, Gold on Linen

Makoto Fujimura Soliloquies - Joy, 64x80" Minerals, Gold on Linen

TO ARTISTS — From the Vatican, 4 April 1999, Easter Sunday.

To all who are passionately dedicated 
to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty 
so that through their creative work as artists 
they may offer these as gifts to the world.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gn 1:31)


None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you. Read the rest of this entry »

Essay originally printed in the DAILY NEWS, 4 November 1905. Later published in a collection of Chesterton essays entitled Tremendous Trifles.

With his unique brand of observational wonder, Chesterton writes on an experience of sketching while immersed in the English countryside where paper and pencil become an allegory of  moral weight. This essay captures well the odd co-habitation of domestic trifles and metaphysical grandeur in Chesterton; he seems to be a man who could speak with intimate observations of the deepest truths of all reality in the same breath as griping about the comforts of a properly formed teacup while holding a less-than-ideal vessel. I find this feeling of colloquial grandeur and bourgeois mythology a part of Chesterton’s appeal, he has that oddly endearing blend of crotchety affection and grandfatherly wisdom that certain men inherit in age .


The South Downs of the English Countryside

I REMEMBER ONE SPLENDID MORNING, all blue and silver, in the summer holidays when I reluctantly tore myself away from the task of doing nothing in particular, and put on a hat of some sort and picked up a walking-stick, and put six very bright-coloured chalks in my pocket. I then went into the kitchen (which, along with the rest of the house, belonged to a very square and sensible old woman in a Sussex village), and asked the owner and occupant of the kitchen if she had any brown paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this year, I posted a link to a video lecture at Google headquarters from Lee Siegel on his book Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, and recently I found a review titled Digital Equality and the Untuning of the World from Ken Myers of the MARS HILL AUDIO on Siegel’s book. Ken Myer’s opening sentence of the review points to the fact that he is looking to do more than just stake his opinion on Siegel’s book but review the ideologies behind it.

“[Against the Machine] is a pointed exploration of themes MARS HILL AUDIO addresses frequently: the centrality of the sovereign self in modern culture (and the dehumanizing effects of that sovereignty), the way technologies rearrange social relationships without our noticing the changes (or their consequences), and the erosion of forms of cultural authority.”

If you were intrigued by Lee Siegel’s lecture at Google, Ken Myers’ review of Siegel’s book will be a welcome voice in the conversation.



Click here to view our post of Lee Siegel’s lecture for Authors@Google and links to other reviews.

MARS HILL AUDIO regularly posts essays similar to this one on the resources they are dutifully researching through but may not make it all the way to the publication Journal recording but are still significantly weighty. These review essays can be found at the Mars Hill website What We’re Reading.

iWoodmans Wife/i by Steven Kenny

Woodman's Wife by Steven Kenny

Two Comparative Quotes from Daniel Tammet and J.R.R. Tolkien on Creative Perceptions of Reality

On 26 January 2009 in an interview for BBC’s Radio 3 program Nightwaves Isabel Hilton spoke with Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant with “the most remarkable mind on the planet”, on his latest book Embracing the Wide Sky, and about the difference between emotional intelligence and the kind of intelligence he has mastery in. Read the rest of this entry »

From the Introduction:

In the autumn of 2007, a conversation started between a group of young adult leaders in Madison, WI which eventually led to the planting of the 24-7 Madison Boiler Room in the late spring of 2008. It was during the first few months of this conversation that Laura Breu and I began to start writing letters to one another. It started out of a question she had about an essay I wrote a number of years back but our letters quickly turned into an exploration of many aspects of art and the christian life. Writing, like most arts, is a tender place in the author and it is rare to find a space to offer incomplete and un-tried pieces without a fear of rejection but with an expectation of clear-headed and thoughful critique. Laura’s conversation is richly felt, pricking at the depths of the soulful dimensions of creation, and the creation of soulful dimensions in Christian Community. As we progress from sharing and reviewing each others work we move through topics such as christian music and worship, leadership in the church, exploring the differnce between allegory and story and the intersections between artistic creation and incarnational theology. The conversation eventually culminates in coming to grips on what it means for artists in the church to function in the prophetic and archival roles in order to build up the Church and bring healing to the world. Laura herself has seen this first hand in the Third World and perhaps all I must do to excite you to learn from her is to introduce you.

“ . . . being in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. . . behaviors must be changed but no one knows how.  We, as carriers of the truth know the answer, the only answer to this problem.  It lies in the hero of our myth.  Here in lies the challenge of mission.  Not to change the myth of the culture, but to add a hero that is not yet defined in the midst of their story that is already written. Taking into consideration that the deep places within cultures that hide behind Western suites come forth in art provides the point of intersection, the place of possible pivot…the potential of prophetic, community arts is immense.  I believe it is the stage that the hero will be defined upon and named within the myth. “ – :La

I hope the glimpse into the journey of two christian artists laid out in these letters sparks and furthers your own journey and conversations,


PDF Download of ‘Letters with Laura Breu’ (right-click to download)