Motivated by Wonder or Contempt?

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 When I was a young boy, every Sunday evening was enchanted because of Disneyland, shown at 6:00 p.m. I used to feel such a sense of wonder every time the show began: "When you wish upon a star…”

 It’s been said that “the very name Disney conjures a specific mood and feeling.” I concur. My experience was always to feel spellbound and thus  animated and thrilled to behold yet another episode from Walt Disney. 

 The sense of inspiration would stay with me through the evening and take me into sweet dreams at night. Indeed, I looked forward to bed-time because of the great Disney-inspired dreams I was sure to have. 

 It is apparent that Disney’s response to nature, a response of wonder, has had a wave-like effect of inspiration upon countless millions.

 And it all began with a mouse named Mortimer

 Mortimer was one of several mice who Disney had found in his wastepaper basket feeding on candy wrappers.

 He responded with kindness towards these little creatures.

 Placed in a cage on his desk, Disney used to study the movements of the mice, becoming fascinated by their antics.

 I don’t know exactly what it was about Mortimer in particular that was so impressive. Maybe his headstands or somersaults. But he got to Disney. 

 Perhaps it was simply his mouseness. By just being a mouse, Mortimer stirred the imagination of Walt Disney. That mouse, said Disney, “won my stony heart.”  

 Well, this was some kind of mighty mouse, whose special power was to awaken a hard heart. 

 Disney’s stirred heart then set Mortimer free in a nearby field. He then went about creating a cartoon featuring the great Mortimer.

 Except that, Disney's wife objected to the name, Mortimer, saying that it was "too sissy.

 So Walt changed Mortimer’s name to Mickey.

 The rest is history as Mickey Mouse, followed by a host of other animated creatures, became sources of delight for people too numerous to count.

 It is plain that Disney's response of wonder to an ordinarily despised creature, one that usually gets either screamed at or swatted, has served to awaken that same sense of wonder in many.

 Which is Disney’s accomplishment - the escalation of wonder on a grand scale. For which the world is grateful.

 Disney saw beauty in the movements and antics of a little mouse, which served eventually to create a sense of wonder in my little boy self - an influence still strongly felt. 

 Because of Disney, not a few of us learned early on in life what it means to be thrust out of ourselves, for, as Roger Kimball says, the effect of  something truly beautiful is to dislodge and relocate us, grounding us in a transcendent dimension.” 

 This was the Disney effect - to dislodge and to relocate. To remove us from one realm into a higher one.

 If the deepest yearning of the human heart is for transcendent experience - to be transported to higher realms of awareness, then Disney has been an instrument of grace in accomplishing this for many.

 Says Paul Johnson, about Disney's uplifting impact on many hearts: "It is significant that Mickey Mouse, in the year of his greatest popularity, 1933, received over 800,000 fan letters, the largest ever recorded in show business, at any time in any century.

 "The next largest were the 730,00 letters Shirley Temple received in 1936." (Paul Johnson, Creators, p.262)

 Now, it’s been said that to enter such an inspired state is to have tasted the goal of life, which is to acquire just such a spirit.

 Which is to be fully animated and inspired from within.

 It’s to live in a state of wonder: 'Morning by morning new mercies I see.’ 

 This acquired state is the ability to see with new eyes - with the eyes of a child, full of wonder, innocence and expectancy. As Jesus said, 'Unless you become as one of these, you will never see the kingdom of God.’ 

 It follows then that the contrast to that quality of life that has acquired the spirit of wonder, is a failed life, where such a transformation has not happened.

 A failed life is one that has failed to acquire a sense of wonder and has instead collapsed into a spirit of cynicism and contempt.

  A failed life is one that has fallen into learning how to mock and to sneer.

   A failed life is one that is distracted by many things, while disregarding essential things. 

 A failed life is therefore characterized by an attitude - an attitude of cynicism.

 It’s a soiled condition which manifests as a spirit of opposition, as a spirit of contempt towards higher things. It is an antipathy typically on display towards nature, history, tradition and religion

 Which has come about because of an inward turn - not in its beneficial sense as a movement towards the Spirit within, but towards one’s own base impulses.

 With the result then that all kinds of undisciplined impulses end up manifesting outwardly in destructive ways.

 As for example, in the arena of contemporary art, where the spirit of contempt and opposition reigns almost supremely.

 It’s a problem that Hans Rookmaaker resolutely faced in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture.

 Rookmaaker focused on 'the problematic and polemical character of modern art, which he had discerned was about "the denunciation of the nature and dignity of humanity." (Laurel Gasque, Art and the Christian MindThe Life and Work of H.R. Rookmasker p.9)

 And so for Rookmaaker there was a war to be fought against bad art. It was for him "spiritual combat, and not simply a matter of aesthetic niceties or opinions.” 

 Rookmaaker's effort was "to awaken spiritual sleepers to the idea that modern art was not amoral or neutral, but was loaded with meaning that conveyed an impact on all of us, whether we ever darkened the door of an art museum or not.” 

 Rookmaaker’s point was that much of modern art is “an assault on our humanity.

 As for example, in the works of Picasso.

 The historian, Paul Johnson, describes Picasso as a man who was motivated by contempt: "His creativity involves a certain contempt for the past, which demanded ruthlessness in discarding it.”

 Picasso’s accomplishment was that he "abolished all the parameters of representational art and largely replaced it by fashion art." 

 He made it therefore possible "for Warhol to coin the telling phrase, “Art is what you can get away with.”

 Consequently, “by the beginning of the twenty-first century, artists, or rather operators in the art world, were getting away with anything.”

 Which is all because of Picasso’s "move away from nature and into the interior of his mind”, the very opposite of Walt Disney’s move towards nature.

 What Picasso did, says Johnson, was to turn "the bodies and faces of women and models into caricatures, cubist cartoon characters, animated by his own contempt, even hatred.”

 His effect was likewise destructive in all of his personal relationships with women.

 And thus we have here a study of the difference between two men - Picasso, who made war against nature, and Disney who always endeavored to follow it.

 I am left now with the question: What motivates my own life, work or art? 

 What’s driving me, a sense of wonder, or a spirit of contempt? Surely this needs to be sorted out.

 What actually is my orientation? To uplift or to take down?

 I’ve been thinking a lot lately that success is not about either making it the top or about breaking all the rules to shock everyone with your horrible painting. 

 Success rather is about an inner attainment

 It's about the acquisition of a condition, or state of wonder, where in response to the highest and the best, I am ‘lost (found) in wonder, love and praise.

 In the words of meditation master, Gurumayi: The Scriptures say “over and over again that we cannot take anything external with us when we die; not even the tinest possession goes with us - only what we have attained inside.

 "Only the experience of God, the experience of the Truth, goes with us no matter where we go.” (Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Kindle my Heart, p. 7)

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Chamundayai Kali Ma Shiva’s Garden