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Author Topic: Does art lead to selfishness?  (Read 907 times) Average Rating: 0
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Truth_or_Bust
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« on: September 17, 2005, 08:41:37 PM »

Greetings,
I am interested in seeing this paragraph from St. Theofan the Recluse discussed.  I have a question
which will follow the statement:

"Our self-indulgence has many supports. It is indeed part of our nature; that is, in the body and soul, in our external life and our entire way of life in general. Such indulgence of the flesh comes in various forms. For example, there is sensuality, luxury, lustfulness, love of merrymaking, fondness for pleasure, trouble and care over everyday things, love of honor, love of power, perceptible success in one's affairs, and prosperity. There is a desire to be outwardly attractive, have valuable connections, and be sophisticated in external relations. There is a fondness for the arts, learning, and ventures. All this in the various forms constitutes a firm support for our selfishness, which, with certainty in its reliability and solidity, calmly rests upon it and, being amply nourished, grows from day to day, in one way chiefly in one person, in another way in someone else."

I am a professional artist. I feed my large family from my original paintings which I sell to galleries.
Would I be able to continue in my profession if I was to consider becoming Orthodox? When I visit my galleries to do business I have to be concerned about what I wear. It seems that St. Theofan is saying these activities lead to selfishness.


Thanks in advance for any comments!

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Αριστοκλής
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« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2005, 11:13:55 PM »

T_or_B, I do not see a conflict here for you. 

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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2005, 01:08:13 AM »

Greetings,
"Our self-indulgence has many supports. It is indeed part of our nature; that is, in the body and soul, in our external life and our entire way of life in general. Such indulgence of the flesh comes in various forms. For example, there is sensuality, luxury, lustfulness, love of merrymaking, fondness for pleasure, trouble and care over everyday things, love of honor, love of power, perceptible success in one's affairs, and prosperity. There is a desire to be outwardly attractive, have valuable connections, and be sophisticated in external relations. There is a fondness for the arts, learning, and ventures. All this in the various forms constitutes a firm support for our selfishness, which, with certainty in its reliability and solidity, calmly rests upon it and, being amply nourished, grows from day to day, in one way chiefly in one person, in another way in someone else."

I am a professional artist. I feed my large family from my original paintings which I sell to galleries.
Would I be able to continue in my profession if I was to consider becoming Orthodox? When I visit my galleries to do business I have to be concerned about what I wear. It seems that St. Theofan is saying these activities lead to selfishness.

Ascetics sometimes go overboard and they should be read accordingly, sometimes you just need to dismiss some of the things they say as well-intentioned, but misplaced, fanaticism. Not only would I say he goes too far in his rash condemnation of the arts, but also in his condemnation prosperity and of love of merrymaking, the latter of which I would view as a virtue. Then there's his condemnation of learning; I guess ignorance is not only bliss, but also seems to be virtue...LOL. I wouldn't worry too much about your career and I'd recommend balancing your reading of Ascetics with some of the more Academic Fathers of the Church, such as St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasios the Great, or the Cappadocians.
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2005, 02:39:37 AM »

Ascetics sometimes go overboard and they should be read accordingly, sometimes you just need to dismiss some of the things they say as well-intentioned, but misplaced, fanaticism. Not only would I say he goes too far in his rash condemnation of the arts, but also in his condemnation prosperity and of love of merrymaking, the latter of which I would view as a virtue. Then there's his condemnation of learning; I guess ignorance is not only bliss, but also seems to be virtue...LOL. I wouldn't worry too much about your career and I'd recommend balancing your reading of Ascetics with some of the more Academic Fathers of the Church, such as St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasios the Great, or the Cappadocians.

(intending to quote both of you)

Truth_or_Bust,
I would agree and disagree with both.  I think what REALLY is dangerous that St. Theophan is referring to is Pride as a result from your art - that you are the best artist and an overabundance in pride.  You may be the best, but if you properly give thanks and glory to God for your ability, the no harm.
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Truth_or_Bust
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2005, 07:09:35 AM »

Thanks guys! You all have been a great help on this.

« Last Edit: September 18, 2005, 07:10:18 AM by Truth_or_Bust » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2005, 07:26:04 AM »

self-indulgence. indulgence of the flesh.

sensuality, luxury, lustfulness, love of merrymaking, fondness for pleasure, trouble and care over everyday things, love of honor, love of power, perceptible success in one's affairs, and prosperity. be attractive, have valuable connections, and be sophisticated. fondness for the arts, learning, and ventures. = selfishness.

That's the essence of what he wrote. Now, remember he is an ascetic who has given up all worldly things. Now imagine the person he speaks of--who puts comforts, worldly things, money, money-making, looking good in the eyes of men, being A list, being able to talk snootily about "Pollock as pointillism" while sipping red wine at a gallary opening, appearing learned and sophisticated, hording some painting by DaVinci in a private collection, ...etc.

Now think of humility, the saints and their level of humility, the Fools for Christ who were thought insane and shunned by the world...He is speaking more about self-indulgence and pride than he is about making art. We fill our churches with beautiful things because God's creation is glorious and wonderful, and He is the ultimate Artist. It's only when beauty becomes the domain of the "rich and beautiful" people that it becomes less about beauty and more about possession.  Making beauty is a valid and worthy occupation. It should be valued by the world more right now, though it is not.
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