Catholicism and Beauty

In lieu of a post of my own on this wonderful feast day of Pentecost, I thought I would share a talk given recently by Bishop Robert Barron, that is well worth listening to, even if only in-part. While it doesn’t tie directly into the subject of mental illness, beauty has often served as a beacon of hope for me during dark times, so this talk is fitting (and Bishop Barron always manages to lift my spirits).

If a video talk isn’t something that fits into your current schedule, Mark Mallett’s post today is well worth checking out.

I hope to write more myself soon, but in the mean time, take care, and God bless you!

Kasani

On Showbiz – The Power of Turning A Blind Eye

Disclaimer: The above art is not mine, though it is gorgeous and I would happily pay for it and hang it on my wall if I could track down the artist who drew it.

In this post I wish to address something that I have already addressed before in a previous post, but under a different context. Some of you may know what prompted this, and others may not. Regardless, as a person who understands the business world, and the marketing and entertainment industries from the inside, I know from personal experience that my opinion on this matter is actually valid. Take it or leave it as you see fit.

In many, many activist circles (of which many are unfortunately Christian, and even Catholic), it is common practice to draw attention to poor behavior and then use it as a tool to explain why the behavior is poor. In a day and age before mass media and digital self-marketing, this could be (if tastefully done) a powerful teaching exercise. The problem in today’s society, however, is that using that method now only serves to advertise poor behavior.  A bit like using images of pornography as a prop to point at while trying to teach men that porn is a serious sin. Using images in this manner is far more likely to scandalize otherwise innocent minds than it is to educate them away from behaving in such a manner.

Yes, believe it or not it is possible for the minds of people in this culture to be innocent. I was led down the path of self-harm and suicide because I was just such an innocent and I turned to my fellow mental-illness sojourners for advice. What I was given, was personal stories from their lives—lives that were very interesting, but horrific examples to follow. It put images and concepts into my young, 16, 17 and 18-year-old mind that had never occurred to me.

And suddenly I was tainted.

I had no way to know I was walking into that trap when I purchased those books for purposes of self-help. I didn’t realize viewing art drawn by other depressed and bipolar people would lead me toward the precipice of grave sin and potential death.

I didn’t know.

But I most CERTAINLY did not need to be warned about it!

What I needed was someone to point out GOOD examples. To draw attention to the good, the true and the beautiful.

Which is precisely what many Christian and Catholic bloggers currently AREN’T doing.

Bishop Robert Barron’s approach to evangelization works because it refocuses society’s attention on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. It doesn’t pretend that evil doesn’t exist. It simply takes the “wax-on-wax-off’ approach. “Yes, but what about this TRUE example of beauty?”

Show, don’t tell.

When we hold up art or entertainment and criticize it, we don’t do anything except draw attention to something that should be ignored. Things don’t go viral on social media because they are worth looking at. They go viral because they cause scandal and intrigue. And many, many things never gain attention because they are IGNORED. The hardest thing for an emerging artist to do, whether in the music world, the writing world, or the acting world, is “break-in” and be acknowledged. Because there are no “credentials” except your ability to generate a following and build a platform for yourself. Agents and editors can’t do that for you if you aren’t generating content that is worth attention.

So the best way in this culture to discourage poor behavior is NOT to draw attention to it, and instead focus on positive things. This is not “head in the sand” pollyanna-ism. It’s an example of highly intelligent business savvy. That which is evil will kill itself in time. Evil always self-destructs. I speak from unfortunate personal experience on that front as well.

Study history. In particular, study art and music history. The only reason Mozart is still famous today is he had a father who was brilliant at marketing and showbiz. Mozart was no more impressive than any other great composer. His achievements are only mind-boggling to people who cannot themselves compose in the classical style and sightread sheet music and improvise on the spot in front of an audience. Since I myself can do all three, I’m not impressed by him. I do find his music beautiful to listen to, but I greatly dislike his piano music. His forte was violin. Trust me.

In other news, I have read Michael O’Brien’s A Landscape with Dragons three times, and his Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture once. While I appreciate the point he is making, and I agree with this concept, I strongly disagree with his methods. Drawing attention to poor art simply serves as “advertising.” It doesn’t take away popular art and entertainment. It only makes you personally look like a bigot, and it will alienate everyone who is a die-hard fan of whatever you’re criticizing and close their minds to the message of Christianity. A far better approach is to either point someone away from the poor art in question toward a better piece of art OR to highlight the Goodness, Truth and Beauty to be found within the art so that people learn to discern between Good and Evil in things they already have an attachment to.

I will elaborate on this more in future posts, however for now I have to go set up my church for music ministry tomorrow morning.

Take care, and God bless!

Kasani