Art, Zeno, and God

  1. One of my favorite shows on Netflix is Chef’s Table. It’s a series of documentaries that profile one of the world’s greatest chefs per episode. They go all around the world and find some of the most interesting people. These chefs are all craftspeople and artists who tire endlessly honing their skills and pursuing questions of the soul. Every episode I am reminded of a principle Nietzsche talks about in Twilight of the Idols, that “intoxication precedes art.” What drives you? What fascinates you? What is your obsession? As an artist, if I am not drunk on my subject, imbibing furiously on my muses, my art will not excel. This could be the scale from which to weigh an artist if any medium. As Rumi said, “Judge a moth by the beauty of its flame.” We should judge artists and creators of any kind by what drives them to create.
  2. I sometimes like to think of art in terms of geometry. This may seem off, but it’s not. I’ll explain later.In one of the episodes of Chef’s Table, the chef in question was Virgilio Martinez, who’s obsession are the extremely diverse flavors and ecosystems of his home country, Peru. His goal, I realized, was capturing the essence of the different climates of Peru with each course of a meal. Imagine being able to understand an ecosystem by eating a combination of flavors that capture its wildlife, climate, and altitude. This is impossible, of course. One cannot come to understand such a broad and complex place teeming with life by eating a few courses of food. But, even thought it is impossible, Chef Martinez can come very close to achieving this goal—in fact, infinitely close.

    This is where geometry comes in.

  3. Zeno’s Paradox is basically about the distance between two points. Since one can half the distance on a line between point A and point B an infinite number of times, traveling from point A to point B is theoretically impossible. Making art is similarly impossible. The paradox is that you can come infinitely close to the perfect expression of the subject, but it is impossible to ever actually get there.
  4. So, how does God do it? When creating all things, God used words to express himself, and those expressions manifested themselves perfectly. He said, “let there be light,” and it happened. He created the suns, stars, and worlds without end by speaking, expressing perfectly himself with words. This is frustrating to me since I often struggle to find the right words to express myself, stuttering or pausing way too long in conversation while trying to mentally configure what will come out of my mouth next. It makes me wonder how God speaks. His communication would have to be perfectly concise and impeccable.
  5. I tend to harshly judge God’s choices, especially when I’m upset. More than once, in the fog of a deep depression I have accused God of any number of things such as negligence, ignorance, or apathy. But if I were to give God the same judgement and grace I give to artists, I would judge God not by the flaws of the world, of humanity, etc. I would judge God by what drove him to create, by the beauty of his candle, by the brightness of his passion, by his intoxication with love.The world is not perfect. My life is not perfect. But they are works of art, and it is my turn to create. I can come infinitely close to perfect expression, but what matters in life is not a perfect result, but my motivations. What drives me? How beautiful is my candle?

    “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

 

Tyler Clark

Postmodern Mormon

2 thoughts on “Art, Zeno, and God

Add yours

  1. That was beautiful. To continue that last line of thinking a bit, I would say that while God’s crowning creation–mankind–is inherently flawed, that flaw is an intentional part of the ultimate design, the purpose of which is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Without these flaws, we have no growth or progression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Adam. And I think you’re right about flaws being an intentional part of the design–kind of like how impressionistic paintings are flawed depictions of their subjects. God painted an impression of potential into humanity’s design.

      Like

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