Posts Tagged ‘2012’

halbfigur

Vincent van Gogh,1889, Half Figure of an Angel (after Rembrandt).

The fourth week of advent is over and has seemingly retreated into our collective forgetfulness.  The Christmas music has ended, the wrapping paper is gone, most of the lights have been turned off. What are we left with?

Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_1609

The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1609, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Christmas is really the celebration of a spectacular event where Heaven invaded a quiet, remote village to a rather poor couple in a barn/cave housing animals.

NG 2396

The Nativity, William Bell Scott, 1872.

The coming of the Christ, born in a rural area and visited by shepherds smelling of animals, is so very unlike the glitter, lights, wrapping papers, food, shopping and presents that we in the United States have come to associate with the celebration of the season.

nativity_john-giuliani-guatemalan

John Giuliani, Guatemalan Nativity, 1990s.

Can you remember what you received for Christmas? Do you remember what you were given last year?  Did it fulfill you?

chagall_nativite

Nativity, Marc Chagall, 1950.

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth. And it was about him that John stood up and testified, exclaiming: “Here is the one I was speaking about when I said that although he would come after me he would always be in front of me; for he existed before I was born!” Indeed, every one of us has shared in his riches—there is a grace in our lives because of his grace. For while the Law was given by Moses, love and truth came through Jesus Christ. It is true that no one has ever seen God at any time. Yet the divine and only Son, who lives in the closest intimacy with the Father, has made him known. -Book of John, Phillips Translation

honthorst_aanbidding_herders_1622_grt

Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622, by Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst.

It’s amazing how God has used the tiny, simple and common things to proclaim himself.  As I enter a new year, a year closer to the second coming of Christ, I pray that I can focus on what God has placed in my path:  the tiny, simple and common things used to proclaim him.  How many missed him the first time he came?  How many missed him this year?  How many times have I missed him?

I’m in the middle of reading this new book and series by one of my favorite authors, Stephen R. Lawhead.  The book The Bone House is the second in a series called Bright Empires.  The reason I am even discussing this book is because the characters have found a method to travel between dimensions and time(s) through the use of ley-lines.

I’m not going to discuss the whole idea of ley-lines in this post, but to give you a brief overview Ley-lines are alleged alignments of a number of places of geographical and historical interest, such as ancient monuments and megaliths, natural ridge-tops and water-fords. Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins in his books Early British Trackways and The Old Straight Track.

Anyway, back to the idea of time travel, I awoke too early this morning and was thinking about this book I am reading and about moving through time. As I continued to wrestle between the state of wakefulness and reality I thought for some reason that it was no longer April 2012, but for some reason I was now half my age and it was April 1986. So I began trying to remember where I would have been in April of  1986…

I was twenty-three and in the middle of Army Combat Engineer Basic Training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Talk about waking up to a bad dream.  Then I remembered reading an article about Marilu Henner and her special ability to remember every day of her life with striking clarity.

Henner said that having superior autobiographical memory is like having the ability to time travel to whenever she wants.  I wonder if that is what time travel is about?  I have always thought of listening to music as time traveling because I can place myself to a specific time and event with most popular music that I have grown up listening to, from hearing the Beatles in Gym class in elementary school to school dances in the 70’s and beyond.

So what truly is time traveling?  Is it physical where you actually transport to another time or is it a memory…possibly both, at least in science fiction novels and movies. I have thought it would be interesting to relive certain aspects of my life without the mistakes and with my current knowledge and understanding.  Thinking back to my dream.. well, I did not really want to remember all the wonderful events of basic training, but I do wish I was in that type of physical shape again and able to have the energy I had to get up and run five miles at 5 a.m. Instead I woke up and wrote a blog about time traveling at 5 a.m. in 2012 while listening to Celtic music.

Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

When you reach the end of your journey, will you be able to look back on a life well lived?

by Marcelo Gleiser

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/02/01/146157261/the-mayan-apocalypse-and-the-meaning-of-life?sc=fb&cc=fp

Two days ago I listened to a lecture on the Mayan “prediction” of the apocalypse, which millions believe will take place on 21 December 2012. The lecturer was one of the world’s foremost experts in archaeoastronomy, Prof. Anthony Aveni, from Colgate University.

According to Aveni, the scant Mayan documentation that can be interpreted as saying anything about the end of the world should be seen not as predicting an apocalyptic end but a rebirth, which always happens at the end of a calendric cycle. Although to most people it will either be a blow up or a bliss out, the reality is much tamer than that.

I actually addressed the Mayan end-of-days fallacy in some detail in a past post here at 13.7 and don’t want to belabor the theme.

However, while Aveni was explaining why a planetary alignment won’t do anything to us — “did you know that Venus contributes only 1/500th of an inch to earthly tides?”— ditto with solar flares or an alignment with the galactic center, common phenomena without much to fear, he also asked why do people of all ages, past and present, have such a fixation with ideas of the end, and why this is particularly acute in America.

Here we circle back to Haque’s question of what makes a life meaningful, and we see that fears of the end are often related to fears of having lived a meaningless life.

Haque’s focus on meaningfulness seems to rely on legacy. At the risk of oversimplifying his remarks, his point is that people spend too much of their lives in trivialities and thus feel trapped in an empty existence when, instead, they should be investing their time in generating something that “stands the test of time,” “the test of excellence,” and the “test of you.”

We are creatures bound by time, and our awareness of this simple and ruthless truth feeds some our best and worst deeds. Most of us fear the lack of control that we have when it comes to the passage of time. So we find ways to stay on, even if we are no longer present in body. We only truly disappear when people stop remembering us.

(What do you know of your great-great-grandparents? Add extra “greats” as needed.)

However, there need not be anything elitist about the nature of this legacy. It’s not all about getting a Nobel prize or composing a symphony or writing a poem that will be read hundreds of years from now. Raising a good family, creating a recipe that goes down from generation to generation, making someone’s life better, inspiring young students, all should count as a legacy. I’m sure you have your own examples.

The issue that muddles this discussion is the matter of value. What has value to me may not to you and vice-versa. What is meaningful to me may not be to you, and vice-versa. So, it’s quite difficult to come up with universals of meaningfulness and say this is what makes a life worth living.

To a certain extent, if we have good health, the next most important thing is probably freedom. And, in my view, to be truly free is to be able to choose to what or whom you will commit. It could be a family recipe book, a new theorem, or a life of devotion to the poor.

In any case, a life that was well-lived would never be long enough. This, perhaps, is the essence of the human predicament. We all struggle to find our own way out of it.

The Expressionists View

I read this article very early one morning when I was having trouble sleeping, and I was really simply amazed at what the author described as a meaningful life…having good health or creating a cookbook…really WOW!  I need to state that again: WOW!  That is a meaningful life? That’s kind of sad.

I guess I think of those who struggled with health issues all of their lives and yet accomplished much or others who were not creative cooks yet went on to impact the world around them.  I feel there is a giant hole in this article that the author does not see, much like a giant elephant in the room that no one notices.

What makes the idea of the world ending in 2012 so riveting to people; what makes life worth living?  What is life all about even? These are questions that man, religion, philosophy, the arts and sciences have been wrestling with since the beginning of our being.

So…What is a life well lived?  I feel the author never really answered it or even gave a view but danced around the question in a typical post-modern fashion with the hip “it doesn’t really matter” attitude.

Here’s some of my thoughts and expressions. 

The Westminster Catechism asks the question: What is the chief end of man? and answers it: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That sort of transforms the whole question and places it into another level of experience and meaning. We are now no longer the center of the universe but a created being with a purpose…a very important and unique purpose. 2 Timothy 1:8-10 (HCSB) has Paul explaining to his young mentor Timothy that God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

I guess the meaning of life or a well-lived life can only be brought into focus through the way we view the world which, of course, is daily changing through our experiences, relationships and personal revelations of life.  What then is our guide, our mile marker/signpost to lead us through this fog of life?  What is not changing but is true? I guess for me, instead of playing ping pong over the abyss, I have placed my trust in Jesus Christ and allow His word, the Bible, to guide me as long as I am willing to humble myself, listen, and learn.  I hope that example that I try to lead, as flawed as I am, can be a life worth lived that leads to an eternal existence.

To look at a modernist view from the mid-twentieth century, Dylan Thomas poetically exhorts us to passionately live life that makes an impact

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

.

In a parting thought Paul states to the believers in Philippians, ” …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Philippians 2:11-13

It’s good for everyone to stop from time to time and take inventory, isn’t it?

 God’s word reminds us to look back at what happened; I need look at 2011 to seek God’s direction for 2012.

Deuteronomy 32: 7 tells us to remember the days of old; consider the years long past.  Don’t forget why God saved you!  2 Corinthians 5:15 states, “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” (Holman Standard Bible)

So I need to take stock and look back on what I did last year so I can walk with confidence into this new year, the future which is where we are all headed.   I have a list of challenging questions that I have asked myself about what I have done and where I am going.

 1. What have I done in service to the Lord this past year?

2. How much did I grow spiritually this past year (or did I)?

3. Who or what did I witness to this past year?

4. Was I as faithful as I could have been?

5. Did I encourage others every time I had the chance?

6. What would I like to see different this year ?

7. What am I going to do to help make this difference ?

8. What change has Jesus been working in my life?

9. Am I loving those in my church, my family and my community, as well as my enemies?

 What tests did I undergo this past year?

10. The test of anger: What makes me mad?

11. The test of humor: What makes me laugh?

12. The test of music: What makes me sing?

 13. The test of anxiety: What makes me worry? What do I fear?

14. The test of money: How important is it to me? What do I do with it?

15. The test of value: What is most important to me?

16. The test of influence: What difference am I making in others?

 17. The test of companionship: What kind of people do I prefer to be with?

18. The test of speech: What do I like to talk about?

19. The test of time: What do I use it for? How well do I use it?

and finally:

20.  What goal should I have for 2012?

Reflecting upon what I have or have not done is a great way to seek what I want out of life and a great beginning to set goals for the future.  In 2011 I completed my Masters degree from Boston University, which was a huge goal and a huge relief after all of the energy I put into my studies.  I then put my Masters thesis into practice by beginning The Art Junction in March of 2011 as a community-based art education project for the rural community that I live in.  http://theartjunctionwillardohio.wordpress.com/

Kevin Casto, Self portrait during grad school, digital collage, 2010

One of the goals I have set for this year is to open my studio back up and begin regular work in painting and drawing.  I am well on my wayI closed down my last studio in the spring of 2006 and was in my last exhibit October of 2006 at Cleveland State University.  Studio time had to take a break.  I had to allow my family to have first priority for the past several years as we built a house, moved, dealt with family health issues, and endured graduate school. The goals that I have now embarked upon are daunting, and I know that running the Art Junction, as well as restarting my studio, is a major stretch.  I read in my devotions the other day a great quote from Calvin Miller who states, “Nothing is more beautiful than people trying to accomplish some great thing in the name of Christ.  These see themselves as weak, but we should never pity them.  Those who hold any vision too great for them to accomplish on their own must rely on Jesus.  For those are most blessed whom life reduces to such utter weakness that they cannot manage on their own.  But watch the weak!  See how they tremble and trust. What! Do these who have no strength still dream of conquering the stars?  Yes.  Their dream is reasonable, too.  They have been made capable by his power.” (The Christ We Knew by Calvin Miller)

So as I challenge myself I want to also challenge you: to allow the Master creator to guide the artistic endeavors of your life; to invite Christ to fill your empty canvas.  I know it’s not easy and we will make mistakes and fail, but in our weakness He is able to do His will.