JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Vol. XXXIV 2022
THE ARTS & TRANSCENDENCE:
IN SEARCH OF BEAUTY, TRUTH AND GOODNESS
JIS XXXIV 2022: 1-10
THE ARTS AS SELF-TRANSCENDENCE (Editorial)
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
This editorial highlights the remarkable contributions in this JIS volume that explore the arts as a gateway to the transcendentals of beauty, truth and goodness. It focuses on the recurring notions of order, telos, and creativity reflecting the essential attributes of human nature as imago Dei. Apart from the arts as art therapy, how can the arts connect one to the transcendentals? Can homo musicus aspire to self-transcendence? A shining example of music as self-transcendence is the life and times of Tony Bennett, the legendary singer and an American icon of traditional pop, big band, show tunes, and jazz. Bennett’s love of music, in particular, transcends his physical limitations engendered by the onset of Alzheimer’s in later life.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 11-42
MUSIC AND JUSTICE: A TELEOLOGICAL PHILOSOPHY
OF MUSIC AESTHETICS
Jeremy E. Scarbrough
Paseo-Hernando State College
Although aesthetics began with an interest in a teleological order, the classical question was largely disparaged and rejected in mainstream academic circles by the twentieth century. The two dogmas of musical modernism were the presumption of formalism and the assertion of aestheticism. Historically, philosophers defending the objectivity of aesthetic value focused on the question of Beauty per se. But what if beauty is descriptive of something else? Our conviction of justice runs deeper than convictions of beauty. This essay explores the significance of human anticipation concerning justice and how moral conviction relates to music as an encounter with teleological convictions. Music is fundamentally an individualized philosophical experience engaging the question of order, based upon a universal teleological presupposition. We do not find the arts to be meaningful because we believe them to be beautiful; we ascribe beauty to that which we find to be deeply meaningful–a way-it-should-be.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 43-58
TASTING THE TRANSCENDENT: DENISE LEVERTOV'S "O TASTE AND SEE" Christina Bieber Lake Wheaton College
Modern views of poetry tend to concord with Wallace Stevens’s insistence that “God and the imagination are one,” assuming that the only meaning there is in the natural world is that which the poet makes. But Denise Levertov held instead that the poet’s word is a response to the beauty of the world as given by God, and that the poet’s task is to invite the reader to resonate with that experience. Drawing on current research from neuro-cognitive poetics that indicates how readers experience beauty in language, this essay seeks to demonstrate how Levertov’s poem, “O Taste and See,” embodies an invitation for the reader to engage one’s senses in the discovery of God through the beauty of poetry and created being.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 59-72
ZOMBIE ART: BEYOND MATERIALIST ART MYTHS
Rod A. Miller
It is easy to ridicule the pretense and silliness of many works coming from the “art world.” The story of the arts, for at least the past century and a half, has been one of attempts to keep alive something that is long past dead. For example, without a substantial understanding of quality, aesthetics has been held up as a substitute for life. But the aesthetic, long touted as fundamental to the goals of art, begs other questions: which aesthetic responses? What if one does not have the same, or any, aesthetic response? This essay explores an alternative, one that refutes the modernist conception of substituting mere pleasure and emotion, that is, preferences, for the idea of Beauty as the manifestation of what is known to be True and Good. Instead of seeking living art that is Beautiful, and can bring life, postmodern culture is surrounded by dead, zombie art. Strategies for stopping the flood of long-dead zombie works include reason, ridicule, and pointing the way back to Beauty.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 73-96
INTERACTING WITH ART: HEALING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Lynda E. Bair
Colorado Mesa University
Can visual interaction with artwork prompt healing? Can the brain recover from traumatic experiences and help heal the whole body? Since the 1940s, art therapists have claimed that the production of art can help heal past traumas. Similarly, occupational therapists have employed techniques from arts and crafts since the end of World War II to retrain soldiers helping them recover from the trauma of war. The global Covid-19 pandemic has caused health-related and psychological problems–isolation, increased anxiety, and fear–for people of all ages, with the rates of such traumas affecting children tripling over the past two years. According to the Nebraska-based quilting company, Accuquilt, during the first six months of pandemic isolation in 2020, sales more than doubled as new customers showed a desire to participate in arts and crafts from home. This essay explores various approaches to the arts to determine how art may restore dignity and health following traumatic experiences.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 97-116
ART AS THERAPEUTIC BEAUTY AND A VISIBLE “SERMON” TO THE WORLD
Gregory E. Lamb
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
This essay contends that God created humanity as His co-creators to bring Him glory with one’s entire being, including imagination and creativity. Throughout Scripture, YHWH is depicted as the artistic Creator of all that is beautiful, true, and transcendent. The Bible attests the creation of humanity in the imago Dei–sharing God’s innate creativity–and divine gifting of Spirit-inspired artisans utilizing their talents for God’s glory. Yet, over the centuries, “art” was oft misunderstood and grossly neglected in Christ’s church. Philip Ryken explains how medieval skeptics began removing and destroying art believed to violate the Decalogue. Imbalanced suspicions toward art in Christendom still persist, despite the positive, inspirational effects of icons in Catholic and Orthodox traditions and scientific research that shows the therapeutic value of art across a broad spectrum of mental and physical challenges, including isolation and depression. Makoto Fujimura posits that Christian creatives possess a common faith as “border-walkers,” and can affect phoenix-like positive cultural and ecclesial change by reintroducing beauty as a visible “sermon” into a fragmented, post-pandemic world.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 117-128
AWAKENING THINGS WITHIN:
MUSIC AND CHRISTIAN FAIRYTALES
In his engaging volume on fairytales, George MacDonald wrote that the purpose of a fairytale is “not to give the reader things to think about, but to wake up things that are in him.” By contrast, many works of art, including contemporary musical compositions, are accompanied by statements of “things to think about,” such as didactic program notes by the composer on pet social justice issues. This essay explores what can be done in a piece of music to “wake up things” already in the listener. These include invoking something familiar in the musical style, using essential building blocks of beauty in constructing the music, and providing a teleology of purpose and narrative flow in the music, in contrast to modernist trends that eschew these things. The essay explores also how and why these “awakening things” can and should be accomplished.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 129-146
ARTISTIC GENIUS AND FREEDOM OF CREATIVITY
IN KANT’S CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT
Rintje Theoren Tolsma
Institute for Christian Studies, Canada
This essay explores Immanuel Kant’s notion of artistic genius and how it relates to the modern conception of the interrelated ideas of nature and freedom as they appear in his Critique of Judgement. Genius works as a unique concept in Kant’s oeuvre, showing how art provides a harmony within what, in Reformational philosophy, they call the “ground-motive” “nature-freedom.” The concept of originality as it relates to genius has the potential for an alternative reading to what was held subsequent to Kant and what is still held today, one that puts the emphasis on a certain relationality. Hannah Arendt’s conception of freedom and Jacques Derrida’s reading of Kant are also relevant. This essay’s reading of Kant’s genius, defined by its multifaceted network of relational forces, shows a way out of the bind of the binary nature and freedom. By explicating Kant’s notion of artistic genius, one is able to better understand art and its function: probing the complex relationship that humans have with themselves and the rest of creation.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 147-171
BETWEEN EPHEMERALITY AND ETERNALITY:
BEAUTY AND TRANSCENDENCE IN ARABIC MYSTICAL POETRY
Kahar Wahab Sarumi
National Open University of Nigeria
The question of beauty continues to engage humans, especially intellectuals, who inquire into its quintessence and the sources from which it derives. Does beauty consist in attaining geometric harmony of structure and shape, or in achieving numerical proportion in audio and visual? Or, does beauty transcend all that, to crystalize into an absolute essence that conforms to high values as justice, truth, and goodness? How long does beauty last? Does it terminate at the terrestrial realm or transcend to the celestial? What kind of beauty is essential for the attainment of transcendence and eschatological happiness? Beauty is two-sided, one is transient, the other eternal. This essay examines the concept of beauty in Arabic poetical compositions of Muslim mystics, and explores how they construe beauty and identify its locus vis-à-vis transcendence between ephemerality and eternality as seen in the poems by Ibn al-Farīd and al-Tilimsānī. The former perceives God’s name and attributes as embodiment of absolute beauty, and everything in the universe, as manifestations of the beauty, while the latter argues that every beauty in the universe derives from God’s absolute beauty.
JIS XXXIV 2022: 172-194
MARTIAL ARTS IN SEARCH OF TRANSCENDENCE
BEAUTY, TRUTH AND GOODNESS IN BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU
“Joey” Alan Le
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
This essay argues that martial arts, especially Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), mediate the divine attributes of beauty, goodness, and truth just as much as the fine arts. Some may question the compatibility of martial arts with Christianity. Yet, according to the just war doctrine, fighting is permissible when defending oneself and others. Furthermore, instead of doing nothing about evil or injustice (pacificism) and escalating to violent killing, jiu-jitsu as a distinctive martial arts presents the creative alternative of nonviolence. The essay considers various ways in which martial arts point to God through the analogy of being and the Tao. Jiu-jitsu resonates with Christian notions of perichoresis, self-awareness, rightness, flow, mystery, theosis, and epektasis. BJJ is beautiful in how it inspires existential wonder at the unique and particular gifts of the other. It searches for truth pragmatically and ethically, in a quest for combat effectiveness and social sustainability. Jiu-jitsu is good as it fosters inclusivity, respect, selflessness, and philanthropy.