Monday, October 22, 2012
Character, Conviction, and Community: Meditations From a Car Trip
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- People. I’ve heard someone say regarding human beings, “You can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” It’s a funny thing to hear coming from a person. But that’s the way people are.
On a recent trip through New Mexico’s northern mountain range, The Sangre De Cristo (Blood of Christ), I’ve come to realize we are an assorted lot of wayfaring folks, capable of amazing convictions and assorted works.
Concerning convictions, theologian, James McClendon, states, “Convictions, as well as traits, are integral to character, and to the existence of community.”
So when one meets a person, we meet the community in which that person presides, for good or ill. Community defines, or at least, influences, the people that inhabit it, helping develop the character and individual traits of the person; which, in turn, influence the larger community.
Convictions. Character. Community. There appears to be a circular development of give and take between the three realities.
If this is the case, on my trip I interacted with several communities, and a multitude of characters in four cities: Las Vegas, Red River, Taos, and Santa Fe—all in New Mexico.
While in Las Vegas, my family and I stayed at the historic Plaza Hotel, built in 1882. We were there to check out the area and see where Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Rider’s had their first reunion in June of 1899.
Walking around the plaza we saw Plein-air painters busy capturing the Victorian buildings with their chalk, acrylic, and charcoal. We wandered the galleries and antique stores, buying books and window-shopping.
If a character defines a community, then Las Vegas is one of a kind.
In Red River, we soaked in the beauty of the town. Pines. Aspens. River. Nature at its loudest.
But it was at the Lost Love Saloon that we meet another character, and hence, got a feel for the community of Red River. Playing at the Saloon was Mike Addington, an Americana singer and songwriter whose online bio states that he has played with some fine musicians over the years. We sat by the fire as he sang a combination of original and cover tunes.
While Mike was outside on a break, I began to chat with him. He’s a fine fellow, very polite and thoughtful. I asked a few questions about his music (which—to my ears—is a combination of Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett). He told me about the recording and instrumentation (mandolins, accordion, etc.) I ended up buying the CD, Horizon and Main, which acted as the soundtrack for the rest of our trip.
After a stop in Taos where we snapped photos of the changing Cottonwood trees, drank tea at the La Fonda Hotel, and looked at books in Moby Dickens Bookshop, we headed south to Santa Fe.
It was in Santa Fe that came one of the biggest surprises of the trip. While walking up Canyon Road, we stumbled into a gallery named Randall Hasson. The gallery name didn’t ring a bell. I’d walked by the same area before, but didn’t recognize the name or art. But what drew us in was the use of quotes within the paintings: Scripture, C.S. Lewis, Theodore Roosevelt and the like. We had to check it out.
Inside sat a man at a desk. He welcomed us and said if we had any questions, please ask. So I did.
Are you the artist? I ask.
“Yes, I am,” came the reply.
After some introductions, I found out that Randall Hasson—the artist of the works that drew us in—is a recent transplant from San Diego, California to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Small chat ensued.
How long does one painting take, I inquire?
“Three months. I start the painting in an upright position, having to take it down to write the quotes in calligraphy. It’s a long process,” he said with a smile.
I ask Randall about his C.S Lewis painting.
“I’m an admirer of C.S Lewis’ work. I felt his quotes and portrait would make a great painting,” he says as he walks over to the piece.
How long did this particular painting take, I ask later in an email?
Randall was asked by the C.S. Lewis Foundation to lecture on the painting and the artistic process during its 2005 conference in Oxford, England.
How did Randall connect with the C.S. Lewis Foundation, you may ask?
For a PDF file of Randall’s presentation at the Conference, please click here: http://www.randallmhasson.com/uploads/CSL.pdf
In all, Randall used roughly nineteen quotes of various lengths from an assortment of C.S. Lewis works. To read the quotes, click here: http://www.randallmhasson.com/uploads/CSL_ReflectionsFinal.pdf
As I browsed Randall’s gallery I was struck by the amount of inspirational and though-provoking quotes used within his works, be it quotes about science, faith, or courage.
In all, the words are central to all of Hasson’s works. Concerning the subject matter of his paintings, Randall’s website states, “One cannot help but notice that the work of this artist tends toward the inspirational, whether it be religious in nature, spiritual, business principles, advice and encouragement from artists about Art, or simply motivational.”
Randall was a genuine man, full of artistic conviction, with obvious skill as an artist. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with him.
His art made me think of the importance of words within a community. Words help define a people, a group, and city. Words build up or destroy. Words can heal or wound. In short, words matter. It’s no wonder that the Judeo-Christian worldview highly values words. Words both communicate and transform.
Again, if Randall is a product of his community, Santa Fe, then he is fine representative, particularly with his use of words. So why all this talk about community, conviction, and character you may ask?
The reason is that community is lacking in many parts of the world today, even within “organized” religion. We live such a rushed existence that we forget to stop and greet those around us, to immerse ourselves in the culture, life, and beauty in our individual spheres, and to use words to communicate—and bless—that which we cherish as human beings.
So what can we do to help rectify the community problem?
First, as we interact within a community, we must seek out those who represent great conviction and character within that community, encouraging them in their various roles within their neighborhood—be it a café owner, a musician, or artist. Talk to them. Listen to them. Engage with them.
Second, we must help develop community. Take time to get to know people. Learn about their lives. Become, as a pastor friend of mine, Ken Sutton, used to say, “Real-vant” (a combination of real and relevant). Invite people over. Meet them at a local café. Learn the names of business owners of your local business. Shop local. The list can go on. But the gist is the same: become a community builder, not one who fractures or discourages it.
Third, and this is specific to Christians: get involved in one Church, becoming a vital part of the living body. Don’t church-hop or skip out when you are offended or don’t like the worship for that Sunday. Christians need to recognize that community is part of the Christian life, an integral component of our spiritual growth. So find a Church you resonate with and serve the community through it.
The point is this: we need to become agents of conviction and character within our communities, helping shape them for good and the cause of Christ, be it our local neighborhood, city, state, or church. Community is important and we must seek to preserve it and cultivate it.
Jesus said it best when he stated, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Notice two words: light and city. First, Christians are to be lights, that which helps illuminate. Second, we are to be lights of the “world,” the largest of communities. And when we become lights in our communities, the promise of this verse takes root: we become a city that cannot be hidden.
As Christians we shouldn’t hide from our communities, but interact, bless, and build up them with the goodness that comes from God. In doing so, we help turn on the lights of individual hearts, helping sustain and illuminate lives in communities, cities, a countries around the world.
And all of this takes conviction, character, and community.
To view Randall Hasson’s art, please click here: http://www.randallmhasson.com/Home_Page.php
To hear excerpts of Mike Addington’s CD, click here: http://www.mikeaddington.com/
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.