I took a trip to the Columbus Museum of Art this winter and met a work that captured my attention. The piece is titled “Blow Up #1” by Ori Gersht. I visited this exhibition a number of times while it was showing at the museum and enjoyed watching the reactions from various people. They all seemed to notice something different. Gersht used high-speed photography to capture a moment in time of an arrangement of flowers exploding. In just this one short moment, Gersht captures a profound truth about this world and the human condition.
At first sight the photo looks amazing. Beautiful and exciting. Yet when I look closely, I realize it is beauty that is broken. The photo is a visual display of reality. Reality can have many exciting appearances, but it is deeply flawed. First, I was attracted to the beauty. Then I saw the violence and wanted to turn away. Once I accepted both, I began to see. I understood and was at peace. Troubled, yet comforted. I was holding the paradox.
We tend to only take pictures of good and beautiful things. We take pictures because we want to be outside of time as we try to hold on to moments of beauty. We want the experience to last forever, yet we know it won’t. Here we have a photo, yet it is not attempting to hold onto beauty. It is honest. There is no deception because it displays a beauty that has been subject to corruption. It is tragic. There is no sense of hope directly given in this, yet I do still find hope in it. It makes me face reality-that all things fade. And this brings out my longing for a better world. As C.S. Lewis said: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The world was subjected to futility…in hope. And hope that is seen is not hope. The new earth is not seen. Peace on earth is not seen. Love without parting is not seen. Jesus Himself is not seen, yet we hope for these things. The now is broken, but the brokenness points us to wholeness.
If I look at this and just see beauty or excitement- I have deception.
If I look at this and just see violence and brokenness- I have despair.
If I look at this and see both beauty and brokenness- I have hope.
It does not take much observation of this world to notice the tension between destruction and beauty. Look at a tree in autumn, or a dying flower, or a frozen waterfall. If there are these two opposing forces, how do we make sense of it? One might ask, “How can there be death when there is so much beauty?” Another person might ask a similar question with a different focus, “How can there be so much beauty in a place filled with so much destruction?” I only know of one satisfying solution that addresses these problems. We need something with a hand touching purity and beauty to reach down into the dust of destruction with the other hand and unite itself to this dust and make it glorious forever.
My next composition, Beauty Broken, will express these same truths.