In January in Northern Russia, everything vanishes beneath a deep blanket of whiteness. Rivers, fields, trees, roads, and houses disappear, and the landscape becomes a white sea of mounds and hollows. On days when the sky is gray, it is hard to see where earth merges with air. On brilliant days when the sky is a rich blue, the sunlight is blinding, as if millions of diamonds were scattered on the snow, refracting light. In Catherine's time, the log roads of summer were covered with a smooth coating of snow and ice that enabled the sledges to glide smoothly at startling speeds; on some days, her procession covered a hundred miles.
And is it not the artists that make art? Well, no: criticism is now the substance of art making to such a degree that many of today’s public artists do away with the product as an issue, and make public debate the contents of their art. In doing so they are not redefining art so much as redefining public space. The debate itself has become the public space.
The reason people are so moved by art and why artists tend to take it all so seriously is that if they are real and true they come to the painting with everything they know and feel and live, and all the things they don't know, and some of the things they hope, and they are honest about them all and put them on the canvas. What can be more serious?
We are all glorified motion sensors.Some things only become visible to us when they undergo change.We take for granted all the constant, fixed things, and eventually stop paying any attention to them. At the same time we observe and obsess over small, fast-moving, ephemeral things of little value.The trick to rediscovering constants is to stop and focus on the greater panorama around us. While everything else flits abut, the important things remain in place.Their stillness appears as reverse motion to our perspective, as relativity resets our motion sensors. It reboots us, allowing us once again to perceive.And now that we do see, suddenly we realize that those still things are not so motionless after all. They are simply gliding with slow individualistic grace against the backdrop of the immense universe.And it takes a more sensitive motion instrument to track this.
The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. It's not something that committees can do. It's not a task achieved by groups or by movements. It's done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.
But at some point it becomes obvious that, ultimately, the adventure of faith is the most sensible thing to do, and in fact the only thing worth doing. As Sam says toward the end of The Two Towers, no one remembers the tales in which the characters give up and turn back. Great and heroic deeds remain undone if no one leaps into the dark to do them. That's true when it comes to faith, too. You can't play a meaningful role in the great story by playing it safe. Once you hit the road, there is no going back to life as it was before. When Jesus asks His disciples if they will leave him to, Peter says, "Lord to whom will we go?" (verse 68). It's either walk with Jesus, safe as it seems sometimes, or go home.
Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew - who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no doubts. They knew that they had the truth. In their creed there was no guess — no perhaps. They had a revelation from God. They knew the beginning of things. They knew that God commenced to create one Monday morning, four thousand and four years before Christ. They knew that in the eternity — back of that morning, he had done nothing. They knew that it took him six days to make the earth — all plants, all animals, all life, and all the globes that wheel in space. They knew exactly what he did each day and when he rested. They knew the origin, the cause of evil, of all crime, of all disease and death.At the same time they knew that God created man in his own image and was perfectly satisfied with his work... They knew all about the Flood -- knew that God, with the exception of eight, drowned all his children -- the old and young -- the bowed patriarch and the dimpled babe -- the young man and the merry maiden -- the loving mother and the laughing child -- because his mercy endureth forever. They knew too, that he drowned the beasts and birds -- everything that walked or crawled or flew -- because his loving kindness is over all his works. They knew that God, for the purpose of civilizing his children, had devoured some with earthquakes, destroyed some with storms of fire, killed some with his lightnings, millions with famine, with pestilence, and sacrificed countless thousands upon the fields of war. They knew that it was necessary to believe these things and to love God. They knew that there could be no salvation except by faith, and through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.Then I asked myself the question: Is there a supernatural power -- an arbitrary mind -- an enthroned God -- a supreme will that sways the tides and currents of the world -- to which all causes bow?I do not deny. I do not know - but I do not believe. I believe that the natural is supreme - that from the infinite chain no link can be lost or broken — that there is no supernatural power that can answer prayer - no power that worship can persuade or change — no power that cares for man.Is there a God?I do not know.Is man immortal?I do not know.One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.
How promising today's generation is. They can whip out their cellular phones like sheep, instantly take a million digital photos of their cat and then just delete them. But I'd like to see these kids try to artfully use a traditional film camera or make a super 8 home movie. Traditional film takes integrity, nostalgia, effort, patience and imagination - things that the 21st century has very little of. Everything these days, even a superior medium like film photography with an extensively vivid history and an iconic meaning, is becoming disposable in this age.
Everything has a past, a voice, existed at some point, even things as small and seemingly meaningless as a house in a huge suburb. It’s a house like every other house… but at some point a family lived there, made it theirs, made it important. When people forget that history, that somebody at some point thought the house mattered, it just becomes an empty pile of nailed wood and brick and concrete that gets torn down for some strip mall or chain store to take its place… and that’s what happens more and more now, everything is disposable, always replaced with no thought at all. That’s where things get lost, memories get lost, humanity slips through the cracks, because when we all fail to pay attention to the things that make up our lives, we’re no longer human at all, not really.
Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge? Was it, once more, the deceptiveness of beauty, so that all one’s perceptions, half-way to truth, were tangled in a golden mesh? Or did she lock up within her some secret which certainly Lily Briscoe believed people must have for the world to go on at all? Every one could not be as helter skelter, hand to mouth as she was. But if they knew, could they tell one what they knew? Sitting on the floor with her arms round Mrs. Ramsay’s knees, close as she could get, smiling to think that Mrs. Ramsay would never know the reason of that pressure, she imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was, physically, touching her, were stood, like the treasures in the tombs of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out, would teach one everything, but they would never be offered openly, never made public. What art was there, known to love or cunning, by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device for becoming, like waters poured into one jar, inextricably the same, one with the object one adored? Could the body achieve, or the mind, subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? or the heart? Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs. Ramsay’s knee.
For some young artists, it can take a bit of time to discover which tools (which medium, or genre, or career pathway) will truly suit them best. For me, although many different art forms attract me, the tools that I find most natural and comfortable are language and oil paint; I've also learned that as someone with a limited number of spoons it's best to keep my toolbox clean and simple. My husband, by contrast, thrives with a toolbox absolutely crowded to bursting, working with language, voice, musical instruments, puppets, masks animated on a theater stage, computer and video imagery, and half a dozen other things besides, no one of these tools more important than the others, and all somehow working together. For other artists, the tools at hand might be needles and thread; or a jeweller's torch; or a rack of cooking spices; or the time to shape a young child's day....To me, it's all art, inside the studio and out. At least it is if we approach our lives that way.
On some level, acting is the art of pretend, and you have to have a highly cultivated sense of imagination. You have to be able to see things that aren't there, no matter what aspect of acting, whether it's green screen, whether it's on stage, whether it's anything else, whether you're working on the radio.