poetry is not a luxury

‘The dichotomy between beauty and necessity has always been a false tension. Yet as a distraction, it has been extremely effective at crippling our power to bring full-bodied, earth-rending change. And those of us who are most intent on justice, those of us who are activists, and those of us who stand in the barrage of steady societal critique perhaps need to drink in more art than anyone else. In our line of work, the task of stoking our vision and constantly imagining possibilities is absolutely essential.

We can be so harsh and ascetic as we fling ourselves against the needs of the world. Art is accused of being bourgeois because much of the creation of art takes time and solitude and staring out the window. And how can we give ourselves permission to do that when people are starving and there is work to be done?

I think of Judas bemoaning the fragrant ointment that could have been sold to feed hundreds of hungry people but instead is poured in that single lavish, revolutionary gesture onto the head of Jesus. He views the profligate gesture as sin, and feeding the poor as the only good.

I know that voice. it comes from my own lips. But if we always see only those who are starving, we will continually wander the desert of the frantically working and overwhelmed. What we need – desperately – is to not be overwhelmed. And the single thing that keeps us from being overwhelmed is imagination…’

– taken from ‘How one justice-seeker was redeemed by beauty’, Dee Dee Risher, in Geez Magazine Spring ’08 edition.

2 Comments

  1. Yep. Over-whelmed by the poor. Under-whelmed by the rich. It’s enough to make me cynical.

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