Call & Character, December 15, 2020

The British poet Edward Thomas once wrote an exquisite little poem in which he described a simple, towering plume of smoke rising from a train as “so fair it touched the roar with silence.” In my own encounters with the art of Makoto Fujimura, our guest today, I’ve been overwhelmed, too, by a silence so deep, it roars and arrests the gaze of anyone who pays it attention.   But this is what beauty does. It holds a fragile power to generate meaning and recognition. It resists commodification and crass pragmatism, and invites those who behold it to stop and linger a while. Reading Fujimura’s new book, I was reminded often of the story in the gospels about the woman who came to Jesus with an alabaster jar and poured expensive perfume on his feet, to the displeasure of the disciples. What the woman at Bethany did made no economic or earthly sense. It was an excessive act with no instrumental value. But she saw Jesus as her beloved and knew that he was worth the offering. She took the perfume, itself a finite good, and made it something of infinite value. As the art and writing of Fujimura suggests, these sorts of acts ought to arrest our attention, so that we can model their beauty in our own lives and callings.