More Thoughts on Simplicity

Last night we watched "The Sketches of Frank Gehry," a documentary on the famous architect. He did buildings like

the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the

Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. He creates and designs from models, not computers or pen and paper. So as he's sitting and staring at the model and he doesn't feel good about it he'll absent mindedly grab a Styrofoam cup, crinkle it up, and stick it on top of the building. Then he'll grab some paper, corrugate it, stick it to the side and find peace with the final product. How the structural engineers make it happen--I wish the movie would have explored. Sydney Pollack decided to leave that part out, I guess.

But here is what the film helped me realize--it seems to me that people like Ronald Sider and Richard Foster who find their calls to the Christian life to be ones of extreme simplicity miss out on a real gift, mainly the gift of beauty, especially beauty that comes from art. Watching Gehry craft a structure that seems to defy space and that rejects the norms of building projection, then to move through the interior of one of the spaces, whether a home or giant museum in Italy, even through my tv screen it was overwhelming and moving! It was excessive, unnecessary, and triumphant. It was anything but simple. Yet, I can't help but wonder, is not his gift to create such magical spaces a spiritual thing? How can it not be? His creating mind is unbelievable, and he sees ideas that normal, unfamous people could never grasp. How can we not celebrate this? Why do we have to label it holey unnecessary and even condemn it in the name of world hunger. I don't think Sider is doing this, but I do wonder the last time he invested in an original piece of artwork for his home.

So, I am struggling how to reconcile these two things right now. I love my Elle magazine each month because I enjoy watching Prada's ability to craft a tote bag from different shades of patent leather. I love Versace's gigantic shades, and I even love to browse the photos to see how the models are posed, and which ones are really gorgeous versus who needs the professional make-up artist and photoshop corrections. It's cool. Fashionistas are bizarre--I like knowing about them.

Here's what bums me out. The fact that this enjoyment of beauty and art are reserved also only for an elite group. An orphaned child whose mother just died of AIDS in Africa is never going to have the opportunity to walk through the Tate Modern Museum in London or to sit in a NYC Broadway theater and hear Sarah Brightman sing "Unexpected Song." I do not think we need to then tear down our museums or cancel our magazine subscriptions or stop building concert halls that are works of art in and of themselves. We need beauty in order to cope with the places that lack it. Now, I am not saying we personally need to own the beauty or even invest in it. I do think there are other things that are a little more worthy of an investment rather than a $2500.00 purse (people, for one). There has to be a balance.

How does knowing of the lack of beauty in the developing world alter my enjoyment and participation in it here in the West. Can this balance, again, be something that is particular to each Christian as they go? Or is it a universal maxim to deprive in the name of Jesus on behalf of the poor? Help. Suggestions are welcome!!

P.S. Here is a video of Sarah just for your enjoyment. Antonio leaves a little to be desired.

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