So, this whole enterprise is so serious. Let’s drop the pretense and discuss something of greater interest. Where does the spiritual meet the material? In the hands of the artist. And is this the key to our dilemma? The creator makes new worlds ex nihilo nihil fit without determination. (We reject determinism). This world-creating activity is broad and beyond the limits of craftsmanship. There is no greater work of art than religion, when it sticks. Only a handful of “prophets” have successfully pulled it off. But even the small version of this process can be rewarding. Is “private religion” possible or is it akin to “private language” and impossible (as Wittgenstein proved). We are existentialists for the day. Existence precedes essence insomuch as our “faith” is free and we direct our “leap” only toward those objects that we can imagine are real in virtue of our own imaginings and not “second hand.” So the creative process is fundamental to the religious exercise.
About twenty five years ago one of us tried axiomatizing this process. It begins with an existentially potent phrase: Life is Art. But the next step is more difficult: Art is Religion. The doing of world-creation (art) as one’s sole source of satisfaction in this world (life) becomes a worshipful (meaning-making) belief system (religion).
Is Life Art? Is this really axiomatic? If human beings are truly free, i.e. at liberty to choose how each will live (the strong existentialist view) and not determined by anything, then the best analogy available for the sum of those free choices is art-making. This kind of art is not the craft of the painter, but more like the struggle of the poet who chooses from among a seemingly endless array of meaningful terms, with all their baggage, and assembles them in a unique way to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. Each choice we make is overladen with baggage and unimaginable possibilities. Our eternal collaborator — tyche – conspires both for and against us as we strain to see the product of our labor emerge as a unified whole — a world unto itself.
And the strain of religious hymnody always echoes in our ears. For we want our meaning to be your meaning. But alas, that is a gulf too great for even the cross of Jesus to span. Our everlasting disease of isolation and separation cannot be healed. We are sending smoke signals to each other. And each of us is, in some way, a solipsist, though few would ever admit it. But the artist is not concerned. He is most amazed at his creation. The cataclysm may come, but in the ruins the artist rejoices! Here are broken down buildings to build up again! Piles of broken glass are portholes to a new sun! Destruction brings joy to the survivors. All will be remade in my own image.