January 22, 2014

Art: The Lovely, Forgotten Things


"Remembering the lovely things we have forgotten
 is one of the reasons for all art."  
- Madeleine L'Engle
"Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art"


I was tired, rushed, waiting for my son to emerge from piano lessons, when all of a sudden I became lost in time. As I looked at the falling snow on the windshield, a light from the building above beaming down in quiet illumination, I began to notice...not just puffy white blotches of cold, but beautiful snow flowers. And they weren't melting. They were hanging around, leaving me delighted in that one, ordinary moment.


I'm sure I looked strange to my son as he pushed through the doors to meet me; me, with my phone held up to the windshield, my face contorted, my finger dabbing as I worked to get a somewhat focused shot. I had to settle on the above, but I felt satisfied enough to let go and get him home for dinner.

I don't know that I would necessarily call my fairly fuzzy, low-pixel photograph art, but I think of L'Engle's line and at the very least, would consider snowflakes on a windshield one of the "lovely, forgotten things" that I don't want to forget.

There's something else here that L'Engle has brought to my consciousness. It has to do with what she calls chronos, "our wrist watch and alarm clock time," versus kairos, "God's time, real time." As I stopped the world for a while to capture those snowflakes in time, I had fallen into kairos, I believe, and this is the space of the artist.

L'Engle says you know you are in kairos when clock time stands still and you are transfixed in a moment. When it happens, it's pure delight. It happened to me as I watched those snowflakes clinging to my windshield.

L'Engle expounds on this, saying we are not used to paying attention to kairos, but it means everything once we do.

Kairos, she says, is "that time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time."

In kairos, she says, we are completely unselfconscious, "and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time."

Just a few examples she names of those in kairos:
  • The saint in contemplation, lost (discovered) to self in the mind of God
  • The artist at work
  • The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain

We've all been here, whether we realized it at the time. We recognize having been in kairos more easily in hindsight, when the rush has receded.

And so in order to create art so we can rediscover the lovely things we have forgotten, and recreate or present them so others can experience them, too, we must also create space for falling into this place of bliss, of reawakening, you might say.

That's no short order for those of us who live mostly in chronos, but it's well worth the pursuit.

Q4U: When do you find yourself in "God's time" or kairos? What are some of the lovely things we've forgotten that you love remembering? 

1 comment:

Mary Aalgaard said...

Noticing the sky, of course. Those fleeting artist moments, like the sandcastles you mention, sidewalk chalk art, a live performance. I think we're transported into another realm.