As I’m nearly finished with Roger Scruton’s brief volume on Beauty I thought I’d share another one of his observations, along with my commentary. (For more of my interaction with Scruton check out, The Presentation of Beauty)
My interest in beauty is an artery that connects my vocation as a pastor (I’m intrigued with beauty as an apologetic) with what some might consider an escape from the everyday practical concerns of that very vocation — the life of a pastor — through art. It’s good to have something that allows your mind to go in a different direction for a time. This is true not only for pastors, but for everyone, especially those whose work allows them the joy of interacting with other people. Scruton references a sentiment penned by Friedrich Schiller in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man that “Art takes us out of our everyday practical concerns, by providing us with objects, characters, scenes and actions with which we can play, and which we can enjoy for what they are, rather than for what they do for us.” He goes on to explain that “The artist [himself] is playing — making imaginary worlds with the same spontaneous enjoyment that children experience, when one of them says ‘Let’s pretend!’, or producing objects that focus our emotions and enable us to to understand and amend them…”
This thought resonates with me. Whether I’m creating images through photography, scribbling cartoon worlds, or just sketching a scene on paper I’m “playing — making imaginary worlds.” It’s quite obvious with an image such as, A Warm Up, as the frame is fantastic and completely imaginary. But it’s just as true with all images. When a photographer snaps an image. He has captured a moment in time. The moment is gone, yet it remains in the frame. It is, in a sense, an imaginary world, unobtainable except through the presentation of the artist. When someone looks at a photograph he journeys there, if just for a moment, leaving behind the practical everyday concerns of life.
It’s just as true for the overtly make believe as it is for the landscape or even a family snapshot . When we look through the photo album, though the pictures may not be great works of art, they are, each one, an invitation to play pretend and journey to a world long passed.
Whether it’s gazing upon the beauty of art or engaging in the creative process that produces it, art is playing pretend. Like beauty itself, it’s an artery that connects our lives to other worlds where not only can we set down the concerns of the day, but where we can focus our feelings and tap into what impacts our emotions. Let’s never forget how to play pretend!
To play pretend in the other worlds that I’ve created, visit my photo gallery.