Friday, January 8, 2010
Makoto Fujimura’s “Refractions”
Makoto Fujimura is an artist, a writer and the founder of the International Arts Movement, and has been a member of the National Council on the Arts. And what he has written in Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture has led me to understand that my job is like a work of art, a partially finished canvas, and the artist's brush is in my hand.
This is a surprise, because Refractions isn’t about work or the workplace, at least directly. It’s a series of essays about faith, art and culture, and the subjects range from living and working near Ground Zero in New York City when it became Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, to the death of an artist friend, an exhibit of the works of Fra Angelico and even rating college tour guides with his soon-to-be college freshman.
But Refractions is most of all about art, because Fujimura is an artist and art is indeed about life. All of life, because life is a creative act. “Art,” Fujimura writes, “is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator.” And that idea of hope applies to the artist, the architect, the poet, the choreographer and all the other creators who reach out “in hope to call the world into that creation.”
The essays, and the faith and mind that shape them, are quietly and profoundly stunning.
Nowhere is that more evident than in Fujimura’s writings on Sept. 11. The evil that led to the destruction of the Twin Towers and the deaths of thousands of people is juxtaposed against the good of the firefighters climbing up the stairs because saving lives was important, an affirmation of good. The ash that covered the trees and bushes, and his own then-10-year-old son, whose school was four blocks from Ground Zero, is set against the beauty of a night sky and the canvas upon which Fujimura would seek to affirm life and faith. As he says, it’s not sufficient to run from evil; one must run toward something good, toward “the tower of Jesus, which stands beyond and through our own ground zero experience.”
Each essay is a kind of meditation, and needs to be read slowly and carefully, with pen in hand for notes, because there is so much to absorb and ponder in each. More than once I was brought near tears, not any less so when I understood that I could consider my work, my day-to-day job, as a canvas, a canvas for me to create and paint an affirmation of life.
What an incredibly fine thing Makoto Fujimura has done here.