Defiance And Free Will
|Back to Liberty||©1998 by Spider Johnson||Back to Spider|
Recently I and another artist traveled together through Ballinger, TX, where we couldn't avoid seeing the 150' metal Christian cross someone erected on a hill just south of that town. It is an imposing structure of steel covered with bright sheet metal, geometrically faceted as those materials typically lend themselves to look. It is visible for miles, and now the the most striking element of the county. It instantly occurred to me that the structure represented on behalf of its builder, the basic statement "I can and will dominate you," a giant raised middle finger in the form of a Christian cross, a clear self-righteous message to all whose personal spiritual path differed to any degree. Such a grandiose gesture could be nothing else, because it obscenely transcends any expression of a deeply personal relationship with Deity.
The nature of faith must necessarily be an internal and hence, private, process, as is any worthy struggle for personal truth, and it is ultimately one which can only be negotiated alone. Such a process, to be successful, requires courage, an attribute which again arises internally. Any symbol of faith, any symbol, which is designed and presented for others to see, must therefore be a symbol of domination, a message, as Worrell suggested, not unlike that of Gengis Khan when he displayed the severed heads of the conquered as a warning to would-be trespassers. Underlying the need for domination is always a deep fear, a desperate plea for and in the stead of real courage and faith, because what is really being said is "I need your agreement and approval that I'm on the right path, because I don't have the backbone to stand only upon my own conviction, and without that approval I fear it is empty and meaningless; if that is so, then screw it all and you, too." Symbols of domination serve to remind and convince everyone who has the power (and therefore who doesn't); their ubiquity reinforces that message. The Nazis used it very effectively with the Swaztika, an ancient Christian cross, so the "Bible Nazis" are emulating similar tactics.
I do know people of faith, people who worship publicly and people who worship privately, and who own symbols of their faith which they may wear--like a small, simple cross or charm around the neck--or which they may display in their homes--such as a small altar or candle or framed prayer or picture--which serves to remind and re-inspire themselves, and are not intended for others, because these people understand that faith is a private and evolving affair and they manage to muster up the dignity and courage to earn the path they have carved along for themselves. They don't need my permission or approval (nor I theirs).
This phenomenon manifests itself through any ideology, pitting neighbor against neighbor and driving a wedge between the human need for belonging and connection and the desperate obsessiveness of our darkest fears. The American flag bumper stickers that emerged in the 1960's was such an ideological symbol, a nationalistic reaction from complacent middle-aged conservatives, fearful of change, to the younger long-haired Vietnam war protesters. The bumper stickers heralded a new wave of nationalism with increased flag sales and their widespread display across the land. Most of the displays indicated the lack of courage to sit with one's "enemies" and negotiate consensus, and a refusal to examine one's own dark side. Ironically, because of their courage and constitutional duty to redress grievances, many of the protesters were the true patriots.
Any ideological artifact--be it a flag, a cross, a t-shirt with a garish, bleeding Jesus and the words "He Died For Your Sins" emblazoned in full-color upon it, and yes, even much art, too--presented as a "this is the way it is" message to others contains to some degree a "screw you."
· But we must say "stop"
The artist must be careful to inspire and not preach, perturb with compassion, tell truths from his own soul and not from his beliefs. He would do better to divest himself of beliefs altogether and become a purer conduit for the magic that lies hidden in the mystery of what we are.
A few weeks ago I wrote: "Defiance is the catalyst for the expression of free will."
I say that free will is the single most powerful force in the Universe, and as such manifests itself in every living being. But it cannot show up unless it is inspired to by some attempt to stifle it; hence: defiance.
Giant crosses, like a line in the sand, are invitations for defiance because the exercise of free will knows no bounds; where there's nothing to resist, no boundaries, there exists complete freedom, the exhalation of free will. There is also no thoughts of freedom because such thoughts are subsumed into the Being of it, a state of No-Thing-ness, a disappearance of Self. When a being is expressing free will, choice/choosing is absent--only when a line is drawn does the option of choosing arise, and it arises from the sudden conscious awareness of a need to defy a limit. Choice derives from defiance, defying an insult to freedom. The consideration of choices is the inhalation of free will and a dangerous moment. The subsequent expression of free will is an irresistible force.