Gods, Nature, and Terrible Beauty

First of all, hi everyone! I’m back from Italy! Now that I no longer have thesises and papers and reports to write for school, I finally have time/energy to work on this blog. My fiance picked me up from the airport. With flowers. I’ve been spending the past week painting them. I’ll post when it’s finished.


 

William_Blake_Richmond_-_Venus_and_Anchises_-_Google_Art_Project
William Blake Richmond’s “Venus and Anchises”

Several passages in the bible discuss the “Fear of the Lord.” To name a few:

 

Deuteronomy 6:24 “So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for its survival, as it is today.”

Psalm 31:19 “How great is Your [God’s] goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear you.”

Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”

 

John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah
John Martin: “Sodom and Gamorrah”

 

It does seem cruel that it’s not enough to fear a vengeful god. One that could and has smite cities with not even a single word. No. He DEMANDS this fear from his followers. Perhaps it’s true that it is cruel and unjust, but anyone with an ounce of insight can see that these passages aren’t a simple, “Obey me and fear me, or else.” I’m sure even the most fundamentally literal Christians wouldn’t want to follow a god that demands one’s fear rather than love.

Then again, I dunno. Machiavelli himself concluded it’s more efficient for rulers to be feared than loved. Maybe on a deeper level, we can admire these rulers more than the kind ones.

The other side of this argument, perpetrated by those who see the Loving and Merciful God over the Vengeful one, will say that it’s not literal “Fear” of God, but to be in “Awe.” For a while, I thought that too.

 

 

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Lois Isabey “Shipwreck”

It isn’t just the Judeo-Christian god that demands this fear. Nature demands the same from her inhabitants, only she doesn’t give us the structure needed to protect us against her wrath.

 

We stand in front of an ocean, and we admire its beauty, knowing at any moment, it could swallow us up and drown us.

We gaze upon mountains, and climb them, knowing one wrong move, one avalanche, and we plummet to our death crushed under boulders.

Tourists come to Africa to see lions, a symbol of strength and valor from Richard the Lionheart to the Lannisters from our modern Epic, “Game of Thrones” knowing full well that if they’re lacking common sense, and the beast is hungry, they’re not going to live to tell their friends back home about their experience in the African Savannah.

Do we cower and blubber in front of these anthems to Nature’s beauty? We should, but we don’t (except for perhaps the lions I just mentioned). We love them. We emulate in our art. We attach meanings and write songs about them. Even so, if we live in a modern, civilized society, it’s highly unlikely that we’ve ever found ourselves in a situation where we have been completely stranded and at the mercy of Nature.

Thinkers such as Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and many of my peers in my past years at University, believe that if human beings lived uncorrupted by the socialization of society (or “The Patriarchy” or Western Civilization, or any other name for it nasty or otherwise), that our inherent goodness would shine through. It’s funny how someone like Rousseau being such an adamant critic of religion would instead believe that Nature is any more merciful and good than the gods.

 

220px-Jean-Jacques_Rousseau_(painted_portrait)
Seriously, Rousseau, what are you thinking?

 

I still have yet to read Rousseau’s manuscripts, and plan to, but already I find myself skeptical of his ideas. To be uncorrupted by society is to be instead corrupted by Nature. Where her laws demand to kill or be killed. I’ll stick with my warm, protected, heated house with internet and a cup of tea whenever I want it, thanks. I prefer having the leisure to draw and paint rather than constantly wonder what I’m going to eat or worry something’s going to eat me.

Say what you will about the fear of God, but the teachings of Judaism and Christianity eventually led us to the Western Civilization that we know today. In a wealthy civilization where even the poorest are still better off than many average people in developing nations, leisure time to create and appreciate art, and not being eaten by lions, bears, wolves, or any other predator.

Nature’s beauty is something to be loved, but we built protected shelters for a reason.

 

 

 

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