Dwight A. Lucas II

Humanities & Art

Category: Humanities

Thinking, Eternity, and the Heart

Eternity is beyond what we can think. When a person thinks of eternity, that individual thinks of something beyond Being-present. Eternity lives in an alien world. That is, every temporal being—every human being—is outside of something that lasts forever. Humanity and the human experience is not eternal. For instance, the person sitting on the chair at the laundromat will cease to exist. Whether this is because the person leaves eyesight, the laundromat, memory, or life, that person ceases to be undoubtedly. Therefore, eternity—that which is beyond the constraints of time—is a realm that we do not experience in our Being-present. Indeed, a present experience of eternity is an oxymoron.

Thinking of eternity, consequently, is thinking of something that we do not experience, something that lies outside of the reach of thinking. Eternity, thus, is something that we have an idea about but no representation; the thought of eternity alienates not Being-human but Being-only-human. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that we can still think of eternity as if it is real. Solomon’s words help here. God “has planted eternity in the human heart, but” we “cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Eccles. 3:11). Since the human heart can contain eternity and the human itself is not entirely eternal, there is something inside our temporal bodies containing eternity. Nevertheless, this “container” is not logic or the brain but something much more significant.

Conscience & Art

The relationship between form and purpose—How and Why—is symbiotic. But despite this link, Why is usually neglected, because How is more easily framed. It is easier to recognize failures of technique than those of…purpose, and simpler to ask “How do I paint this tree?” than to answer “Why does this painting need a tree in it?” The How question is about a task, while the Why question regards the objective of the work. If an artist or designer understands the objective, he can move in the right direction, even if there are missteps along the way. But if those objectives are left unaddressed, he may find himself chasing his own tail, even if the craft of the final work is extraordinary.

Frank Chimero, The Shape of design

Chimero expresses artists usually forget to ask the “Why” question. Chimero thinks we commonly stress the technical side of art more than its conceptual side. The “Why” question, of course, addresses the purpose of creating and imagining things. However, the answer to the “Why” question does not guarantee a move in the right direction. In the same fashion, the answer to the “Why” question tells us nothing about Desire. The answer to the “Why” question, therefore, must pass through a moral filter (Is the “Because” right or wrong?). Otherwise, all the “Becauses” are right.

We should then see all creation and imagination through a moral lens. We are, after all, rational beings with consciences. That is, we are meant to see and experience things while making decisions based on what we believe is right or wrong. Our conscience, certainly, should not die when we are creating or imagining. Otherwise, we “fornicate even with [our] eyes, as (we create and look at) art (that) exposes in a representation things which should not be seen” (Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on Ecclesiastes 322,16-324,3). We have, in other words, eyes to see and eyes to “see.” The former kind of perception receives visual sensations. The latter kind of perception, on the other hand, is more introspective, reflective, and spiritual. Therefore, we should remember experiencing creation and imagination from a moral starting point reflects how we see reality and how our minds naturally function as human beings. A higher “cause,” nonetheless, must inform and validate our “Becauses.”

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