Celebrating Art, Literature, and Power of Imagination

Art and literature have long been ways in which humans have tried to make sense of the world, our experiences, and our place within it.

In many ways, @Kendel and I think this complements the sciences. Whereas science offers us opportunities to make, test, describe and explain precise observations,* the arts offer us opportunities to feel and reflect.

In this thread, we wanted to create a space where we could engage creatively, theologically, graciously, and humbly with the arts. We invite you to share excerpts or reflections from fiction, poetry, art, music and the like, or even your own work.

We hope this will be a multi-disciplinary thread and encourage you to bring thoughts and ideas from the humanities as well as the social and ‘hard’ sciences. Most of all we welcome you to celebrate creativity, imagination, and the way art moves us to look at the world from new perspectives.

We recognise that people’s tastes are personal. If you don’t like something someone else has posted, that’s OK. In such cases, we’d encourage you to leave it be and let it go.

We can’t wait to see what all of you bring to the table… and to the discussion.

*Neither of us are trained scientists and we do not intend for this to be in any way a technical definition.

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I think botanical illustration might be a good place to begin with the visual arts. Before photography, there was a need for accurate and realistic images of entire plants. These illustrations are not not only prized for their usefulness but also for their beauty.

Imgur

Perhaps in the category of Fictional Botanical Science Illustrations we could include the mysterious Voynich Manuscript:

You can look at the ditigized version here:

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Love the botanical art images here. There is certainly utilitarian beauty in them.

In the world of insects and spiders, until very recently it was hard to photograph them in such a way that A. captured enough detail or B. could be printed small enough to fit into a book and still preserve the details. I’d say until maybe the last five years, most of the best insect and spider field guides had illustrated colour plates.

As far as illustrators go, the most outstanding in his field (from a UK perspective) at least has to be Richard Lewington. His illustrations are just phenomenal, in terms of accuracy, beauty, and utility.

Here are some that have been immortalised as stamps:



Source: Richard Lewington

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the man in the flesh (twice!). He was delightful and kind enough to sign some field guides for me. They are as close to treasured possessions as I get.

Whether botanicals, insects or spiders, I think these illustrations have a way of capturing both the aesthetic and scientific value of creation in a way that we often don’t see. And in a way that I think is very Christian and very “BioLogos” in the true sense of the word. They (literally) paint a view of creation that’s rich in beauty and knowledge which is just waiting to be discovered.

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I love the artistry in those old botanical “field guides” and the painting detail on those insect stamps is incredible! I’ve been captivated by birds since age three, and tried to make my own illustrated field guide when I was in grade 2 (i.e., when 6-7 years old). Here are a few humorous pages from that attempt. Clearly, I was not able to capture the beautiful iridescent plumage of a starling with the felt pens at hand… :laughing:




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Nice. :slightly_smiling_face:  

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The girls and I are admiring your fantastic artwork at lunch. These are great, even for an older kid. We were born too early, though. Now there’s irridescent everything in the marker world.

:bird: :dove: :penguin: :peacock: :parrot: :baby_chick: :eagle: :duck: :owl: :turkey:

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As many know already, I’m a really big fan of horror. It’s by far my absolute favorite genre of fiction. I almost exclusively watch horror. When I want to watch something funny i watch horror comedy, or if me and my fiancée wants to watch a love story we will watch horror romance. I watch horror of all types from silent films in the 30s to modern day horror that I get through friends that has not even been released yet. Though my favorite eras are the sci fi b class horror of the 50s to 60s, the gory body horror full of practical effects from the 80s and the recent growing trend of “elevated horror” pushing social commentary and head nods to the extreme.

People who don’t like horror have a giant list of reasons why, but one I have always found amusing is when someone things modern horror is no longer telling stories and is just this super gory mindless violence. It’s just not true. The 80s produced far more bloody gore than modern films. But even the bare knuckle minimally scripted body horror films are not bad. One of the things horror is supposed to do is get inside of you and scare you. But like most, as adults we just don’t get scared. We know vampires and zombies don’t exist, we are not paranoid about ghosts or alien invasions. Most of can watch a film, and though we can dismiss reality enough to fear for the characters in the film, once the tv is off we don’t lay in bed worried about something underneath it. But what can get to people is practical effects that look so real it makes you want to look away. Which is not easy. It take a whole team of experts in their field to create one scene. Take the transformation scene in “ An American Werewolf in London “. That 1-2 minute long scene took around 50 hours to film. So anytime you are watching a horror film, and something comes up so repulsive that you look away and think…. What trash I’m not watching this TP, just remember that was the films intention, to create a visual scene that makes you want to look away.

As mentioned many horror films actually work as a social commentary. Often the subtext is so hidden that the typical day watcher won’t even pick up on it. Some of the biggest known horror social commentaries. Take the “ Creature from the Black Lagoon “ which is a commentary on humanity seemingly inability to work with nature instead of against it and a secondary commentary on race. The fourth unofficial film of the series is a commentary on the first three and it’s “ the shape of water “. Another recent film is “Manfish” which is a more crude, low budget and satirical take on it.

I could go on and on. I’ve cut this back like 10 times, erased it and started over and blah blah.

Recently watched the Australian horror film that just came to the theaters “ Talk to Me “ and it’s a commentary on drug abuse and depression told through the style of a creepy pasta “ dinner party x cursed object “ story of kids using a embalmed necromancer’s hand to contact the dead to get his sort of spiritual high.

A lot of horror really highlights the battle between good and evil and usually involves themes like friendship and laying down your life for others to overcome the evil one. People often joke, horror has caused more kids to pray to god to keep them safe at night than anything else.

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You make a good point. The very, very few that I’ve seen in their sanitized versions for tv, or the old b-movies that used to show on Sunday afternoons, hosted by Sir Graves Ghastly, definitely fit your description of social commentary. I would add also the exploration of human flaws. Some really functioned the way Greek tragedy did, showing the terrible consequences of human sin or error, particularly when committed by the great.

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Coming to this thread from a couple of the other threads was like crawling out of the sewers. Jesus said the truth would set us free. Along with science, celebrating art, literature and imagination is an important part of this freedom. I cannot understand these people using religion for the enslavement of people, where “God” is a chain hampering every thought and movement. Ahhhh… yes there is love and beauty in the world after all. And NO its not all God’s work, we can do it too.

My mother passed away last year but her art remains on the walls.

This is my favorite.

Yep it is made from yarn.

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@mitchellmckain I’m sorry for your loss. What a beautiful reminder of your mother and her skills,

The photo’s resolution is too low for me to tell what techniques she used. Woven and embroidered? Embroidered over fabric? Punched? Hooked? Do you know? Or can you provide a close up of some of the detail, please?

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One thing I’ve always enjoyed and thought was funny is how horror stories also often worked the same way the story of Israel would go.

The Israelites would move away from God. They would head in a direction they should not go. Some old man would tell them don’t go there. It’s not safe. You’re doing something wrong. You need to repent. They ignore it and carry on and end up coming up against horrific events leaving some dead.

In horror you’ll see a group of people leaving their safe , happy lives and headed somewhere bad. Some old man , a clerk or someone will see it and warn them. Tell them don’t stop there, or turn around and drive back down the road. It’s not safe. Or one of them will say, I don’t think we should touch/steal/remove this. They will all ignore the warning and head there and there face some horror where few if any survive.

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Yeah. Exactly.
I was trying to remember some of the B-movies I saw and the few adaptations for tv that I saw and a few books I’ve read, that I guess could be called horror.

Man With the X Ray Eyes: Thoroughly faustian story. Not all knowledge is good to pursue, and the pursuit itself can do irreperable damage.

The Tingler: Hatred that leads to torture and murder will be avenged by “fate” or something you are unaware of. You won’t be allowed to get away with it. (There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosphy.)

The Screaming Skull: I have no idea. I just remember being all the more terrified of my mom’s ceramic skull door stop, which stared back at me from the end of the hall, when I tried to take a nap on the couch.

Christine: Uncontrolled desire/lust can lead a peson to fixate on the worst possible thing that will ultimately destroy the person.

Rebecca (certainly questionable if this is horror, but I think maybe it could be included): We are all capable of justifying any act that serves our desires. (I love how this book serves as a mirror to the reader, who finds her/himself sympathetic to the murder by the end of the book. Maybe the reader brings the horror to the story.)

Silence of the Lambs: Don’t know. Can’t think about it long enough to analyze it. I had nightmares for weeks over this movie. Maybe: It takes one to know one? Don’t ever think you’re so righteous that you are above doing the most horrific things, too? Anyone can be corrupted?
But maybe also: Be careful about the way and frequency with which you attempt to pursue and absorb knowledge, in this case comprehension of the logic of the crimina. Again a faustian message. Sometimes that pursuit does irreperbable damage. Sometimes there is no going back.

Dracula: A combination of purity, madness and wisdom are required to defeat evil. (???) Still love the book.

Dr. J and Mr. H.; Faust again.

Frankenstein: Regarding Victor, it’s all Faust again. Regarding the monster, the naturally good nature of humanity (even recreated humanity) is corrupted by external forces like contempt and distrust.

Carrie: Treat all people humanely. Or else.

Her Fearful Symmetry: Like every possible existential question finds its way here. Along with the nature of morality and moral decisions, the nature of life and of death, the nature of love and lust and commitment. What is death? What is life? How similar or different are they?

I’m sure you have so much, much more you could add. Or disagree with in what I included. Some of these movies I haven’t seen in 50 years! Some are books I haven’t read in a long, long time.

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Some may know that I am a bit of a Trekkie. Not to the extent of going to conventions or dressing up but I like the various series and some of the things they confront. One of the best inventions (IMHO) is Q. He gives a wonderful insight to immortality and not being bound by time. More important he gives an interesting insight into morality. Specifically the morality of playing God.

Richard

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I will freely admit that Western poetry and I have a strange relationship. Whilst I adore good storytelling, I can’t click with much Western poetry. Someone once said that Western poetry is often like a jewelled finger pointing at the moon, they want us to look at the moon but often our eyes are drawn to the jewellery. Jewellery in this context is the literary device used to craft the poem. And I must say I agree, it often feels like too much focus is on the way the subject is described than the subject itself.

This is probably why I am drawn to haiku, the Japanese short-form poetry made up of two images placed in juxtaposition usually about nature, often with a seasonal reference, that captures a moment in time. With roots in Zen Buddhism, haiku prizes simplicity, immediacy, and clarity.

One of the things I love about haiku is the way it uses negative space to draw the reader into the scene, engaging your imagination and allowing you to fill in the gaps. Like this:

the crane’s legs
have gotten shoter
in the spring rain
~ Basho

Or this one:

hospice garden
a snowflake
in her white hair
~ Eufemia Griffo (Blithe Spirit, 31:1, 11)

Both are very different, both capturing very different scenes and emotions. But at the same time, both capture profound moments with simplicity, immediacy, and without any pretence. Profound, I think, not because of what they say, or how they say it, but because of what they don’t say.

I could talk about haiku for days, but I’ll leave it there for now. Would love to hear your thoughts about the haiku and/or the power of negative space in writing. Or perhaps, you have thoughts on when description enhances writing and when it hinders it.

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Sorry, but it goes over my head (to be polite).

I prefer something a little less obtuse and a little more substance (and preferably in rhyme)

Each to their own

Richard

How about these two (they must be my favorites because they’ve overcome and stuck in spite of senior memory ; - ):

This being only a little excerpt, of course:

There is a little providential ‘co-instance’ story in my tripping over this:

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That second one is just a little poignant!

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@RichardG and everyone else,
I hope you can enjoy this one. It’s the first poem I was aware of that was by an African-American writer, and while I’m a white, mid-western woman, I’ve read it to others many times; it gives me chills every time. Here is an outstanding reading of it.

image
Illustration by Aaron Douglas from the original book God’s Trombones.

The Creation

by James Weldon Johnson

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely —
I’ll make me a world.”

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God himself stepped down —
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.

Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, “Bring forth! Bring forth!”
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon,
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”

Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man!”

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen.

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What a GREAT image! That usually is not what bothers me about poetry, but I can see your point. If the language is obscure, I don’t have much patience for it. And writers like T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound require a full classical education, which I lack.
I have worked a lot with 20th century Black American poetry, which as a category, I like very much because it is generally direct, spare, free-form and often carries the force of a “one-inch-punch.”

And while I don’t love all of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry, I do appreciate his view that a poem should be readable in one sitting. If the language and imagery are to be so compressed, then the work can only be so long, before parts are truncated by a limited memory. Or the reader is unconsious.

Because of you, Liam, I have been paying more attention to haiku over the last while and am learning to appreciate it more. I had such a fun time listening to the Haiku Pea podcast episode you mentioned a while back, and listening for your haiku. But it was also a good exercise in listening to the form and getting a feel for what makes one attempt more successful than another.

I like the sparseness, and what you call the negative space. I also love the expectation that one savors this tiny bit. It’s small enough to go back over and over in the mind, to develop the image – usually a single, powerful image – in the mind and study it there again. And somehow they complement woodcuts perfectly. Yes, I’m learning to like them very much.

Richard, I find your comments about Q really helpful. Generally, I hate him. I feel like he ruins nearly every episode he’s in, simply because he can. I think you see him more as providing the opportunity to think about what might go along with immortality and omnipotence. And maybe if those attributes were not accompanied by love and grace.

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As I recall, the first time I ever saw fireflies was on the United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth. We were at Gettysburg at a motel almost right next to the national park, and for once not only did the chaperones let us stay up late, the bus driver gathered use up at midnight to go out to the battlefield. He led us to a spot and had us stand quietly, and then all of a sudden there were the fireflies, flitting about like so many miniature lanterns bobbing in the breeze. Amazingly enough for a bunch of teenagers we stayed quiet long enough that they started blinking in sync!

Somehow watching that for ten minutes or so enriched our official tour of the grounds the next morning.

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