My in-laws were in town this weekend and due to my persistent study schedule I wasn’t able to make it into NYC with them for the day to tour the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the Natural History Museum. But the first time I did make it to the MoMA was over 5 years ago while I was living in DC and took a weekend trip to New York. And when I made it to the fifth floor and saw Matisse and Picasso in person, I cried! It was kind of an out-of-body experience, like I didn’t know I was crying until I was crying, but it was overwhelming to see those works of art in person when I’d only ever seen illustrations in a book as a kid. My in-laws didn’t have a reaction anything like mine, but that just goes to show you the effervescent quality of art.
Today as I was reading this book for one of my Anthro classes on Cinema and Modernity, I stumbled upon a quote about art from Victor Shklovsky’s mainfesto “Art as Technique.” I just thought I’d share it to make us all think a little harder about what art is all about:
“Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war…And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.”
And that, for some reason, really spoke to me.
While it’s a great blessing to be beginning my predissertation research in China this summer, China is so big and so hazy in my mind. Shifting through endless email contacts, people I don’t even know, to try to coordinate this venture, to try to stimulate relationships that will be anthropologically fruitful is frustrating and exhausting.
But last night, as my husband and I discussed this awesome opportunity, I got back in touch with what really matters to me: I just want to get to know people, and to serve, and to form relationships.
And when I let go of the intimidation factor, I’m able to recall that that is what anthropology is all about, and that is what I love about it. Anthropology should allow me to be me, and allow another person to be he or she, and in that it is certainly a great ministry of acceptance.
This whole effort of planning the trip continues to challenge my faith, as well. One moment I get down, thinking I’ve hit a dead end, and the next morning another email from a complete stranger pops in my inbox full of a passion to introduce me to China. When I actually allow myself to relax, to trust God that it will all come together, I experience the grace of this opportunity.
I never thought I would be puttering through a year of Chinese at this point in my life, poised to test drive my third language halfway around the world. What plans God still gracefully has for me of so little faith!