Friday, January 12, 2018

The Individual and Culture

When the actors I've worked with get frustrated with their careers, I give them simple advice.  Do good work.  Do the best work on the best material you can find and the rest will follow. 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. - Mat. 6:33

We can't control our careers, as they're beyond our reach.  But we can control what kind of plays we do and how well we do them.  And if we do good work, then, after a while, we find we have a career.

Compare this with T.S. Eliot's view of culture, cited and expanded upon at the website of St. John of the Cross Academy ...

As T.S. Eliot remarked, culture is something that comes about as a result of the members of a community simply pursuing true human excellence in their diverse activity. The minute the abstract “culture” becomes itself the aim of our action - one begins to wonder what the word means in such a context -, that is the same minute we cease to be active participants in culture. This is the path to becoming an ideologue, but not a cultured human being. 

This resonates with me, especially since I run in circles where people are quite earnest about "reforming our culture".  This is a noble goal, but it's only achievable in so far as each of us repents and follows Christ.

Here's the Eliot quotation the St. John of the Cross Academy refers to (my emphasis) ...

For if any definite conclusions emerge from this study, one of them is surely this, that culture is the one thing that we cannot deliberately aim at. It is the product of a variety of more or less harmonious activities, each pursued for its own sake: the artist must concentrate upon his canvas, the poet upon his typewriter, the civil servant upon the just settlement of particular problems as they present themselves upon his desk, each according to the situation in which he finds himself.

By the way, the classical Christian education is making a comeback at places like St. John of the Cross and Chesterton Academy for these very reasons: culture is being renewed by people (like parents, teachers and students) doing their best work on the best material.

And this all ties in to Eliot's "Choruses from the Rock", which says this (and much more than this) ...

I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.

Peter Blume, The Rock (1944)

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