in other words


“In other words, in the deepest heart of man, the motive for art and the motive for worship are bound together.  That is not accidental.  In both art and worship, the heart seeks out something beyond itself–a beauty or power that is not its own.  That seeking involves a great deal of what can best be called ‘play’.  Why, if the painting of the deer is only a practical superstition meant to help catch another deer, is the deer the artist paints so deer-like–not photographically true to life, but lovingly true to what it must be like to be a deer?  Why lavish so much care upon a caveman’s version of bookkeeping, if that’s all it is?

But that is not all it is.  The play of the artists hand is one with the praise of the artist’s heart.  He cramps his knuckles and strains his eyes in the poor light to reproduce in the cave a hint of the wonder in his life: that there is a god who gives him and his people the deer, for their feasts, their clothing, and for their enjoyment of their odd and familiar ways.  The painting bears the style of his hand, yet he does not at all mean to express himself in it;  rather it allows him to pass beyond himself, to the animals he knows in part, and to the mysterious forces that govern his life and the life of his people, forces that he hardly knows at all.”

~Anthony Esolen



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