What struck me about Westminster Abbey – the one attraction I visited during a recent stay in the Old World – was the loving care shown to every nook and cranny. Every nave and niche, tomb and tribute; every exposed surface. Centuries of devotion, both artistic and spiritual, captured in the stone and metal and wood, a hoarded treasure. For God and Country and King, all the greatest exertions of belief, bravery, science, poetry, passion.
I had to wonder: in all our artistic exertions during the Twenty-first Century, which of them aim for the sacred? Is it even possible anymore for a nation – or an artistic movement, or a single creative team – to aim for the sacred, to even know what it is? God? Country? King?
Standing on the tomb of Charles Dickens, I forgot that he pined for an audience, that he chased after good contracts, that he strove to outdo himself in sales – and instead saw the body of work that won the adoration of his countrymen, inspiring them to put him here, a treasure among treasures... the loving care with which he created every person in his novels – rich like he became or poor like his father, whom he saw jailed for debt – so that they could be seen, and understood. Are any of our motives so pure? In our own craft, our chasing after contracts, our pining for audiences, our many media, are we working with such fine materials? Are we fashioning them into treasures?