Chapter Two: What Is Hidden Art?
(Cindy at Ordo Amoris is hosting this book study.)
Schaeffer says art is hidden because it's found in the small parts of life, in the mundane, if you will. We're so familiar with it we don't think it's art at all. "Every person ... has some talent which is unfulfilled in some 'hidden area' of his being ..." (31).
I have a weird relationship with Schaeffer's book. I know my mother loved this book, and I got the impression many years ago that it was somewhat life-altering for her. My mother loves art, loves artists, and loves beauty. But she's not an artist herself; she doesn't paint, knit, crochet, sew, play an instrument, or do any of the usual artistic things. She's had a lovely voice in years past. But generally speaking, no one would consider her an artist.
Except Edith Schaeffer, that is.
My mother has stayed home, making a home, all her married life. She said recently that although her friends often have larger, more expensive homes than hers, she knows of no other home she'd rather be in. It's full of old furniture, some of it broken. Used rugs she bought at thrift stores. Rusted this and dented that. But she loves it all. And she has spent a lifetime turning her home into a beautiful, welcoming, warm place. Everyone feels it who comes there.
My mother has the gift of hospitality, she's an excellent cook, and she's a genius at flower arranging.
I think my mother took Edith Schaeffer's words to heart and practiced them for decades. I wonder -- did she read the book, look around her, and ask: "What can I do to make life beautiful for those who come here?" She gardened, and then gardened more. She grew flowers and arranged them for her home, and then for church. Beauty became for her a regular discipline, a daily evaluation of how to make her home pleasant.
Schaeffer: "We should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, response to what has been created for our appreciation." And, "A Christian should show in some practical area ... a growing creativity and sensitivity to beauty, rather than in a gradual drying up of creativity, and a blindness to ugliness" (32, 33).
My mother has a deep, abiding aversion to ugliness in all forms. She abhors the ugliness of sin and debauchery in culture. She's not a snob, and she's seen her share of darkness. But she chooses the beautiful, always. I think Schaeffer is saying that, in choosing to love beauty, we are being creative -- just the choice is a creative act. It is a constant battle, in our day, to choose beauty, to choose goodness. The pull is ever downward to degradation, to slovenliness. My mother can take a broken tea cup and make a treasure. She can take a few weeds and wildflowers and make a display. She can take other women's cast-offs and make an outfit. All these are redemptive acts. Having expensive, flashy possessions is not really creative. Taking something simple, mundane, common -- and finding beauty in it? That's creative. That's my mother.