For some reason, when thinking about this project, I keep thinking about water. Beal talked a little bit about the connection between water and the divine at a fountain at the Precious Moments exhibit, but another interesting thing stood out to me when reading this book (and others)—the use of water imagery in language as well. Standing in the middle of Cross Garden, Beal says, “A religious stream of consciousness seems to be running through this garden, welling up from some undetermined, unconscious source of creativity” (121).
Image and Spirit got me thinking about water, too. One part that seemed especially relevant to our project was Paul Tillich’s ideas about depth—that “depth as a metaphor for the spiritual dimensions of life have continuing usefulness in our search for a definition of the spiritual in art that is limited enough still to define, yet open enough to allow as many people as possible to enter into the discussion” (11). Although not entirely in the way Tillich means, depth, again, reminds me of water, and this passage reminds me of the way we ended our class last week talking about how we wanted to make sure that whatever art we decided to contribute to the building was spiritual and not necessarily religion-specific.
Water is interesting to me because it seems to be a solid connection between science and religion. Water is a fundamental part of nature, creation, and the human body. It is also fundamental to the study and understanding of science (scientists can break it down into hydrogen and oxygen, etc), as well as the rituals and practices associated with religion, mysticism, and spirituality. In a religious as well as natural sense, water creates, sustains, and perpetuates life—much like various deities do and have done in several religious traditions. Water is also extraordinarily powerful—while it can create, it can also destroy, as we have seen in the Bible (Noah, Red Sea, etc), other ancient traditions, and even currently with storms such as hurricanes and tsunamis. It comes as no surprise, then, that a prime characteristic of many of the ancient storm gods and powerful deities is the ability to control and manipulate water (think of Jesus walking on water—in Japanese creation stories, too, a formless material is sculpted by the gods into what we now know as earth). Everyone knows what “Holy Water” is. The vision of Paradise in Islam involves flowing water and flowering, green earth. Think of the scientific “creation story,” too, about evolution and organisms forming and evolving—water was a necessary and essential player in that one, too.
Needless to say, water is everywhere in a discussion of religion—not only is it a powerful symbol, but it purifies and cleanses in both a scientific and a spiritual sense. It appeals to all of the senses, something that I think is important when trying to capture the feeling or the essence of the transcendent. Water has the ability to elicit a “sense of awe” as well as facilitate meditation. I’m not saying that our art has to actually involve water, although that would be cool—but I think that some representation of water would be both meaningful and beautiful. Just a thought…see you guys on Wednesday :)