Art and Identity Theft
I’ve written a short (op-ed type of) article about the Muslim American shyness with art — a vacuum that reinforces and passively permits identity theft of Muslims in America. When a people live in cultural anonymity, others will gladly move in to define who we are and what we represent. Ecumenical and academic forums — things Muslims are very much open to, like other kinds of activism — apparently are not enough to protect a people from being relegated to some abstraction, a condition that makes them vulnerable to typecasting and official and unofficial backlashes.
But back to art. I’m reading Martin Lings’ The Sacred Art of Shakespeare. Of course it’s insightful. Lings rescues Shakespeare from his historical inclusion as part of the “renaissance” and properly places him in the perspective of an author of several plays (especially those he wrote in his maturity) that reflect sacred paradigms. There are many examples. You have to read the book please.
But what’s appealing about this book is the reinforcement that literature can “do” sacred things. It’s good to know again that it’s possible for a dramatic story to inspire (literal meaning of) the soul. Here’s an excerpt:
“If Renaissance art lacks an opening onto the transcendent and is altogether imprisoned in its own epoch, this is because its outlook is humanistic; and humanism, which is the revolt of the reason against the intellect, considers man and the other earthly objects entirely for their own sakes as if nothing lay behind them. In painting the Creation, for example, Michelangelo treats Adam not as a symbol but as an independent reality; and since he does not paint man in the image of God, the inevitable result is that he paints God in the image of man.”