The pursuit of wisdom consists of basic things: reading boni libris, competing with a charitable heart on the field, turning in commonplace books, parsing Latin and Greek, working out complex Calculus problems, reciting poetry, memorizing Scripture, crafting essays, exercising your vocal cords in choir, and submitting your best art (even if you don’t think you’re much of an artist). Well, maybe it is better to say that these are the concrete ways you will pursue those lofty aims advocated by Aristotle, namely phronesis and techne. Both of them are arts aimed at the cultivation of the soul, phronesis meaning moral virtue, and techne meaning skilled virtue. Morals and skills. Or to use Paul’s language, “by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
In his book, The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly About the Arts, Leland Ryken asks a simple but provocative question: “Why do people hang paintings on walls?” There is of course the straightforward response: “because they enjoy said paintings.” But there is another level to the response worth considering, and its implications ripple out beyond the singular notion of picture hanging. Creative expressions have been how humanity thought and considered the reality around it for all recorded history. We don’t write or tell stories or sing just because we enjoy it; we also do these things because we must.
Every quarter, our students are invited to participate in the Classic Film Society. We gather, eat popcorn, watch movies, and then spend time discussing the ways these films wrestle with the Gospel, even if they do it inadvertently. This is more than just an excuse to watch good movies, because movies are one of the primary way our culture searches for the Gospel. Directors aren’t necessarily looking to imbed the content of Christianity in their film, but they cannot escape the shape of Christianity. Films made in the past demonstrate this, as do those that continue to come to a theater near you.
And this is one of the beauties of our Classic Film Society: what we do connects with current movies as well.