Here at “The Catholic University for Independent Thinkers,” we assume the task of encountering the ultimate reality of the human person. We pride ourselves on the arduousness of our course of study and liken ourselves to Aristotle’s philosopher kings in comparison to the rest of society. I’m kidding – kind of.
In reality, the University of Dallas has an admirable intensity of thought that becomes ingrained in us – take our beloved Groundhog celebrations, for instance. As a true UD holiday should be, our day of drinking and camaraderie is about more than consumption and merriment; it is a philosophical endeavor. Think back to the recent slogans. Last year, we called upon Oscar Wilde’s words, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” And 2013’s celebration heralded Benjamin Franklin’s famed declaration, “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.” Even in our celebrations, we proudly display our dedication to the great thinkers who inspire our intellectual aspirations.
My point is that, here at UD we don’t short shrift our reputation for being independent thinkers. I have observed, however, that there is one area of study in which UD’s proud intellectualism falls short of its usual proficiency: art.
Within our identity as a liberal arts school we hold a great potential for further enlightenment by art. I am not talking about the classical arts that we already revere. Rather, I speak for the modern and contemporary periods. We would do well to open our minds to the nuances and messy profundity so characteristic of recent artistic movements, not because they are superior to those of the past, but rather because we owe great respect to the genuine expression of the human spirit that manifests itself in art of all periods.
As St. John Paul the Great, who was himself an artist, put my sentiment to words so eloquently in his 1999 “Letter to Artists,” “Society needs artists… who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is the art of education. Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favour of the common good.”
JPII speaks of the educational value of art. Undoubtedly, not all art is going to sit well with the viewer. Nonetheless, artists offer a unique gift to the viewer – a new perspective, a measured discourse on the human spirit.
In formulating these thoughts and observations into words, I seek to foster an environment of receptivity to art. Let us discover a renewed sense of adventure and awe as we pursue the ultimate reality of the human person.