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Beware! Theoretical discussion. Madmen only please. Also beware ye workers in art and philosophy. The terms used are not intended to be definitive, but rather to illustrate a point. The full discourse on the nature of art and philosophy has filled libraries and will continue to fill new ones. Further, many schools in both these realms will be in violent disagreement with the statements we use as the background for this analysis. Let such consider this page an opportunity to use the tool of specific disagreement.   Others may consider this an odd rehash of the tension between inductive and deductive reasoning.  We believe the reader will come to see this is not the case.

Art and philosophy are so different as to often be considered unrelated.  But they have in common both being ways for people living in existential isolation in a complex world to get at the truth.  Because the human mind is agonizingly finite against the vastness of reality, we want our knowledge neat.  Art differs from philosophy (and its child, science) in how each relate to this complexity.

Philosophy approaches complexity by using dialectic to narrow thought to a razor that cuts through the clutter of life. Classic dialectic takes the conflict between thesis and antithesis and resolves a synthesis.  The principles this uncovers illuminate the cause and effect beneath real world situations.

For example, the principle of power through consent of the governed provides insight into how one should deal with the multitude of political issues facing a multitude of cultures.  All the democratic ideals flow from this principle.  If you have a principle of energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, you have a tool for treating matter as energy, opening consequences like mushroom clouds.

Art approaches complexity by looking for perspectives.   The aim of art is to bring together in a deliberately structured unit aspects of life rarely encountered together comprehensibly in the real world.  Art is most powerful when it unites/relates areas generally considered unrelated rather than putting forth a resolution to a dialectic conflict.

Art takes the world in miniature, creating a simplified picture of reality which allows us to see that miniature world at a glance, uniting in our vision what reality spreads across a stage too large for humans to comprehend.

For instance, art can take an entire lifespan and shrink it down to a few hundred pages, allowing you to experience the essence of a life without spending your entire life doing so.

In discarding most of the minutes of a life, the shrinking process used by art creates an inherently unreal image.  But this unreality is essential because, again, reality is too big for our comprehension.  The selection process and artistic structure bring to light a pattern life "in the raw" often buries.  Without art, to borrow from the words of a song, we will be "Looking for a sign//That fits into our mind//But don't understand//What we see all the time."

Further, the process gives us an insight into the mind of the artist.  If you then take an artistic approach to art itself by drawing from a wide range of perspectives, these insights into individual artists join to form a perspective on the human race.

A couple of metaphors may help make this clear.  These are a mirror and a book with footnotes.

A work of art is like a mirror because it assembles items from different planes into a single perspective.  This foreshortening makes that reflection unreal, but only in precisely the manner necessary to create a single unified image.  When things can be seen in a single glance, unanticipated patterns and relationships often emerge.

A book with footnotes has a story which provides the overall relational framework, while the footnotes provide the detail necessary for a full understanding of the story.  A story told using hypertext is a virtual embodiment of this metaphor.  Any segment of the story that is complex or obscure can link to a detailed background analysis that would wreck the continuity of the story were it to be written in full into the main text.

"For all our are days passed away in wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told."
Psalms 90:9

Artistic perspective is important because of existential isolation.  I am a human being, but this does not cause me to understand the human race in either its variety or its unity. I do not know other human beings directly.  God knows me fully, but I do not know Him at that level, so even my interaction with God does not fully erase my barriers of isolation.

What this means is that on my own I do not have the perspective necessary to know myself fully because I do not know the other members of my species.  It means we must go to God if we are to gain any measure of complete understanding of ourselves.  We need the manufacturer's specifications, and the white stone upon which is written our own true name.  Art plays a huge role in self discovery because we view ourselves as a story.  For evidence of this, merely consider a statement that begins, "When I was a child...."  You see the person you are now as being the same person you were then, only older.  That child and you are connected by the story of your life.

This has great significance for the unity of the Body of Christ.  Just as you cannot love someone more than you love yourself, you cannot understand someone more than you understand yourself.  And if we think the Body of Christ will come into unity despite gross misunderstanding among the members we are greatly mistaken.  True compassion is not born of ignorance.

You can treat a work of art as a symbol.  The phrase "Big Brother" represents the ideas in George Orwell's novel, 1984.  Using that story as a point of reference opens up discussion on the nature of power, the human hunger for freedom, and a host of other issues.  This is why the often mocked commentaries on works of art are not necessarily illegitimate.  Works of high level art tie complexities into symbols open to a dialectic because both sides are looking at the same work of art.  The two sides may see that same work very differently, but these differences are themselves illuminating.

Further, the work of art is itself open to becoming part of another work of art, so that complexity-reducing symbols are themselves woven into a larger symbol that unites several works of art.  A classic example of this is "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot.  Without an understanding of the many works this poem references, much of its power is lost.  This is why the view that art is an individual effort is misguided.  The work may have been created by a lone artist, but that artist has been touched by other works of art, and cannot help but draw their experience of the artistic perspective into their art.  In this recursive fashion, art can progress in scope.  Sadly, a great deal of art in this age strives to cut itself off from the past, to create something new, to place novelty above meaning.  And to thus be neither novel nor meaningful.

Think about this for a moment.  New art?  Is it not a sign of the arrogance of our age that we act as if we were the first humans?  Are we the first people to live and die, to love and hate, to face a bewildering world, to make choices with genuine consequences?  Do we have such a shallow view of art that we fail to see its real power is in showing us how little humans have changed, and instead think the importance lies in the varieties of social contexts?  Are we cut off from the choice between running away or doing battle because we do not live in a Danish castle?  Is the conflict between the individual and society irrelevant to us because we do not live under Big Brother?  Do we never face the question of honor because there is no king who wants to kill us asleep in our cave?  Mistaking style for substance, many artists spend their strength on fashionable foppery.

The progressive expansion of scope in turn opens a relationship between artistic perspective and dialectic knowledge.  Without artistic perspective, knowledge is blind.  Without dialectic knowledge, perspective does not understand what it sees.  In other words, knowledge increases perspective because you understand more of what you see, but first you have to see it.

When a small child sees a tree, they see a big thing sticking up from the ground.  When they understand concepts like branch, leaf, trunk, and root, their perspective on the tree expands.  If they become a forester that same glance will tell them the tree's age, general health, and commercial value.  But mere dialectic knowledge of trees will not lead you to the perspective gained from the story of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The unifying artistic process is important for the Body of Christ because it helps teach us about bringing individuals into unified relationship.  We are many characters, but One Story.  The harmony implicit in the Bride of Christ metaphor is outside our everyday experience.  To see it will require imagination.  This is the significance of becoming Bride Minded.  We must begin to see everything in the context of how it draws the Church together into the Bride, how it hastens the day of the Wedding Feast.

God is quite thorough.  He did not redeem our spirits but ignore our flesh and our soul.  We come into a personal unity of spirit, soul, and body through the redemption of Jesus.  Then things move up a level to heal the divisions in the family.  Then things move up yet another level and unite the members of our local church.  Then things move up another level and heal the divisions between the churches.  Then things move to the high level, where the united Body of Christ becomes the Bride of Christ.  Art excels at representing levels of meaning, like these levels of unity, one inside the other like the layers of a single onion.

The complexity reducing function of the dialectic has now produced so much detail it is itself too complex to understand.  On a somewhat esoteric level, dialectic has made the situation worse because we now have the original complexity of reality with the added complexity of the dialectic manmade world.  This type of information, essentially by definition, lacks perspective.  Put another way, our culture is full of specialists, but no one to draw the specialties together.

The Church as a whole has a significantly detailed understanding of the Word. Denominations and factions have specialized in various aspects of Christianity like water baptism, discipline, the Holy Spirit, duty to the poor, justice, love, and so on. The problem has been that these groups were so vigorous in pursuing their specialty they came to behave as if their particular area was the most important thing in Christianity. This overextension of specialization has kept us divided.

The overall process of understanding the Word moves through three phases: artistic then dialectic then artistic. We learn the stories, then take the stories apart to learn their details, then reassemble the stories in their fulness.

The dialectic phase two without a subsequent reassembling artistic phase three is dead. It produces a fragmented understanding, leaving us with Christ divided. For example, quite a few people who had to read MacBeth in high school can remember the basic story, and even some of the details, but do not understand what the play means nor why it is considered a great work of art. In fact, the more the teacher emphasized details like Malcom going to England, the more likely it is the person knows the trees but cannot see the forest.

The dialectic phase two without the initial artistic phase one produces nothing. We simply do not understand. This is why so many educated people make utterly foolish statements about the Bible. They do not know The Story, and so have no frame of reference to guide their understanding of the details. In other words they do not know what it is they are trying to take apart.

The initial artistic phase one without the dialectic phase two leaves us with a bunch of fairy tales, myths without substance or adult understanding. This leads to the child level wisdom of unitarianism. Without an understanding of the details, you can easily fall into the error of thinking two similar sounding stories say the same thing when in fact their meanings are utterly irreconcilable. In other words, hearing something does not mean you understand it.

A classic example is the line attributed to a Buddhist sage, "Nature against man, man against nature, man against God, God against man; strange religion." This is used as a mockery of Christianity by American agnostics, who use it in a context implying the speaker's religion does not find man and nature and God to be in conflict. But the agnostics do not understand what is being said even though they hear the words.

Buddhism believes nature is an illusion, you are an illusion, God is an illusion, everything is an illusion, and the sooner you realize this the sooner you can stay dead and join the void when you die instead of being endlessly reincarnated back into this illusion we unenlightened call Life. If you think life is a fantasy, of course any conflict is foolish. There is nothing real between which a conflict can exist, making conflict is a double illusion.

The Role of Mirror Covenant 
As you may have guessed from this page, Mirror Covenant has been designed to embody the artistic principles we believe so essential for our journey to the Marriage Supper Of The Lamb.

At the nuclear level, so to speak, are the songs.  This why the album series begins with Art of Pantomime.   In the context of this essay, this song can be seen as being about the importance of such a song, both in terms of "art" and in terms of the existential isolation that makes art essential.  If we could directly experience another's thoughts, learning and understanding would be easy.  Just find the smartest person you know and access their experiences.

The next level, that of concept albums like Predator, show how a diversity of individual entities can be united into a larger entity that draws its identity from the relationships among its parts. This is driven by multi-faceted songs, where their image changes depending on the light in which they are seen. Take Sky of Smoke as an example.  It has its own meaning when viewed in isolation.  But this image changes when seen in the light of the abortion issue, or the light of Christian silence in a state separated from the Church, or the light of the kingdom of the Beast.

The call to be BRIDE MINDED is embodied at the next level in the Quest To Be Whole series theme.The destiny of the Church is to be as unified and fully alive as a bride on her wedding day.

The call to an artistic perspective in the Church is represented at the next level in the band itself.  Mirror Covenant exists not only to create meaningful music, but also to suggest a new set of standards for Christian rock in particular and Christian art in general.  Part of our effort is to implement these standards, as well as we can, not only as a living metaphor of the concept of artistic perspective, but also as an example to other artists.

Mirror Covenant is essentially a recursive project, in that we are creating art about the importance of art.  We fervently hope other groups will not only surpass our implementation, but also our standards.  To those people we say, "Stand upon our shoulders.  Exceed our vision.  We will do our best to stand as tall as possible for you."

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