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Truth through juxtaposition

I have written on this  blog before about the birth of pointilism. Drawing on the insights of Royal Tapestry Maker Michel Chevreul, pointilists recognised that more intense colours were rendered in the brain by juxtaposing dots of pure colour, instead of mixing colurs on a palette or in a vat of dye.  In the same way as pointilist paintings can create canvasses which sizzle with light and vitality, so the juxtaposition of apparently unrelated ideas can bring startling new insight. At this process, Twitter excels.

Earlier this morning Justin Flitter, a friend in New Zealand, pointed me to the work of Neal Stephenson, a writer in America. In his article, Innovation Starvation, Stephenson makes some troubling observations about how caution has stunted the growth of ideas, and how the death of ‘traditional’ science fiction has reduced the flow of innovation.  Technological setbacks such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 have also bred a culture of fear rather than courage when it comes to the creative implementation of technologies. The augers ill for the human race:

The imperative to develop new technologies and implement them on a grand scale no longer seems like the childish preocupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It is the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicament. Too bad we’ve forgotten how to do it.

Just as I was  digesting that particular thought, the following tweet popped up on my computer screen from the Director of the Theos think tank:

How right she is! The Bible is indeed a book of ideas. It has crazy ideas in it such as replacing vengeance with forgiveness. It has unpalatable ideas in it like loving our enemies. Look too carefully at the Book of Acts, and you will see deeply impractical ideas such as holding our property in common.  Have we, like the nerds with slide rules in Stephenson’s paper, lived with these ideas so long that we have negotiated a truce with them? We don’t trouble them and they don’t trouble us. If we have, then both church and world are undoubtedly poorer because of it.

Twitter has taken me on a journey from doughnut-shaped space stations to the King James Bible via America and New Zealand this morning – and I am grateful.


…not cloying uniformity

A couple of years ago it was my turn to conduct the local service for the Week Of Prayer for Christian unity.  The centrepiece of the service was a sermon illustrated by the video below. Quite apart from the fact that it is great fun, its celebration of colour seemed to me to be ideal for such an occasion. If we use the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to wring our hands and hang our heads and say how shameful it is that there are differences between us, surely we have missed the point? This is an opportunity, rather, to celebrate the light, colour and diversity of the churches we represent. As I said in a previous discussion, it may be that Chevreul, Seurat and Pollock have some lessons to teach us here.

Fallon, who made the advert above, have things to teach us too. It took:

  • 70,000 litres of paint
  • 622 bottle bombs
  • 455 mortars
  • 57 km of wire
  • 1700 detonators

– to make the film.

Beauty from diversity takes some doing – but it is certainly worth it!

Richard Littledale

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