Updated: Mar 25, 2020
I never really much cared for abstract art or photography; I never understood it. However, a few years ago, as I was doing quite a bit of traveling to various US cities, I noticed that, particularly within the urban landscape, there was a great deal that lent itself to abstraction. The image below was taken in downtown San Francisco. It could be anything at all; but what it actually is is very simple: the wall of a building with the sunlight hitting in just the right way as to project the shadow of another adjacent building onto it. The human mind, which Salvador Dali once pointed out, “hungers and thirsts for concrete images,” will make something out of this that it simply is not. And this is what we do with God, isn’t it? In our fervent desire to know God as best we can, we mould Him and sculpt Him into something that not only IS He not, but something that He CANNOT be.
Images are, without doubt, extraordinarily important; they help us to connect to both concrete reality and to abstract reality. Arshile Gorky, the great 20th century Armenian painter, once said of abstract art: “Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes. Abstract art enables the artist to…extract the infinite out of the finite.” This is also true to a large extent of non-abstract art. However, it is equally important to keep them in their place and remember that they are just images and that our human imagination does not fully connect with God in this way; it is a means to a much much greater end. Post-modern society has forgotten this; we have looked for, and fooled ourselves into thinking that we have found, God in things that are not God.
Art and images are wonderful gifts from God, but they are not God. Let’s keep in our prayers this week all those who struggle with the idolatry of addiction, that they may find God where He truly is: within ourselves, and the silence of our own hearts.