NOTE: “Leadership Reflections” shares views of the different members of the University Leadership Council on matters related to campus life and the operations of the University. As well, it features opinions on issues of national and/or international relevance.
Celebrating God’s Gift of Life Through the Arts
By Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez, Dean, College of Performing and Visual Arts
Scripture Lesson: Isaiah 40:30
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Reworded in the song “On eagles wings” from Psalm 91
And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand
It is a Promise of Gods love… protection… deliverance and salvation
I began writing by dissecting the theme. That’s what they teach you to do when you write your dissertation. I began with the word ARTS. The Arts include painting, architecture, literature, sculpture, dance and of course music.
The Arts are united by commonalities: harmony, dimension, form, the movement in rhythm, the depth in dynamics… these are also found as the basic elements in Gods gift of life (words in the theme) in the universe: for example, in Ancient Greece, musika universalis or music of the spheres, an ancient philosophical concept believes that musical vibrations govern the movements of the Sun, Moon, and planets.
Also found in Gods gifts of life to every human form: … the rhythm of the pumping of the heart as its motion synchronizes the harmony of breathing… the peristaltic movements of the muscles in the stomach for digestion…
The word Celebrating, I think we all agree are actions that we do in gratitude for certain blessings/gifts that we have received.
I could enumerate the different types of celebrations that are done through dance, music and all other art forms such as festivals, parades, weddings, birthdays, funerals, fiestas….devotions… as is stated in the theme “Celebrating Gods gift of Life through the Arts”.
My message on “Celebrating Gods gift of Life through the Arts” is focused on three (3) basic points:
The 1st is found in Genesis 27-31: God created humankind in his image, blessed them, and saw everything that He had made was very good. Since man is created in his Creator's image and likeness, he is endowed with the ability to create also — man uses this creativity through the performance of these arts.
These arts celebrate both the beauty of God’s created universe and the divine spark that seems to inspire such creativity. The famous painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, depicting God’s creation of Adam, suggests this spark of life passing from God to man at the moment of creation.
The 1st point: God created man in his own image and gave him the gift of creativity.
The 2nd point questions how best man can truly celebrate God's gifts of life through the arts. It is found in this short story entitled: “The Seed”.
In the Far East the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day and told them that he had decided to choose one of them to be his successor.
But they had to pass a test. The emperor said, “I am going to give each one of you a seed today–one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.”
One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
Three weeks went by, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.
Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by–still nothing in Ling's pot.
He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection.
Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.
Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful–in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.”
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”
Then the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”
Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave all of you boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”
It takes much courage and honesty to do what is right.
The 2nd point: When we are given gifts of artistry and creativity: It is in the performance of these gifts through courage and honesty that will be a sincere act of praise to the Giver of these gifts… and in that we find our reward.
The 3rd point is illustrated in this story depicited in a video clip…They challenges us to answer the question: Having been given the gift of creativity, what does man do with this gift?
Hee Ah Lee (born July 9, 1985 in Seoul, Korea), is a pianist with only having four fingers. She was born with severe disabilities, including only two fingers present on each hand, no legs below the kneecaps, and mild brain damage.
When she was 7, her mother started her on the piano to train her hands, which at the time couldn’t even hold a pencil. However, as time went by, the piano became her source of inspiration and her best friend”. Soon she diligently practiced piano for hours at a time trying really hard to improve. For example, she worked on one passage from Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu for five years.
She won the First Prize at the Korean National Student Music Contest, and has since won many more contests and has also played in many solo-concerts along with playing with many well-known artists. She was even awarded by the then President of Korea, Kim Dae-jung, for Overcoming Physical Difficulty. She currently attends The Korean National College of Rehabilitation and Welfare.
“…The piano has provided me with many benefits – consolation, courage, gratitude, and compassion are just a few. It has also given me the added opportunity to meet many world-wide friends.” Hee Ah Lee said.
What more could we do with 10 fingers?
So, while we walk in gratitude and are humbled by having been chosen by God to be the recipient of His creativity…, as a someone who sings, paints, dances, writes… and while we believe that the highest form of celebration is gratitude to our Maker done through the performance of these gifts courageously and with great honesty… and while we struggle to seek higher performance in what we have been endowed with knowing that… “It is not enough to be the BEST when we have the ability to be GREAT”!
Let’s us be assured by His promise … that
He will raise you up on eagle’s wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of his hand