A former student of mine recently changed her college major from fine art to philosophy. I don't know why- we haven't had that conversation yet. I do know that the decision was probably a difficult one. The thing is, she will excell in whatever she chooses. She is a multi-gifted, young lady; equally comfortable with a paint brush, a violin bow or a lectern. She is an artist, a member of that odd community of people who see. George Steiner said, "Art is a dangerous thing that can take over our inner house and transform us." I suppose this is why artists struggle with 'the way things are.' The struggle seems especially challenging if the artist is a Christian. Artists ask, "What if?" as they capture slivers of time with layers of paint, or, make the moment about the moment with a line of perfectly arranged musical notes. My former student is both an artist and a Christian. I pray she understands that choosing between Art and Philosophy is not an either/or proposition. The real issue, the one we all must wrestle, is about mark-making. Whether it is paint on canvas or chalk on a sidewalk, a fresco on the ceiling of a Vatican chapel or a crayon drawing on the door of a refrigerator, we all leave marks in this world. Some are bigger. Some are louder.
For centuries the Church has lacked discernment in the area of mark-making. Dorothy Sayers said, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. Church [attendance] by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly- but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? ...The only Christian work is a work well done.” Letters To A Diminished Church.
The good marks, Kingdom marks, endure. I have no doubt my young friend will turn the Philosophy Department upside down. That'll leave a mark.