THE MESSAGE OF ART.
So vast is art, so narrow human wit.
There was once a man who used to talk to his hands. Sometimes he advised them. Sometimes he questioned them.
When he advised them he said: "Be gentle and be skillful." When he questioned them, he asked : "Has justice gone out through you as a sign from me ?" And sometimes he rejoiced in their reply; sometimes he grieved.
Yet to the end of his days this man talked to his hands, advising and questioning them.
As a rule, nature distributes her gifts equally, so most of us get two hands. Again, as a rule, nature makes a bargain with us. In the case of giving us hands, she says, "They shall be a sign between us." We laugh as we go on our way, but nature remembers and waits.
From the Place of Thought within us, which we may call the central station, orders are is sued and the hands obey.
One day in a crowd, I put my hand in my pocket and another hand was there, which, at the touch of mine, moved away almost as lightly as a leaf moves in the wind. The thief's thought had sent down a command to be careful.
Then a voice behind us said : "Come on. You know you are wanted, and I happened to see you pick this gentleman's pocket." The thief closed his hand so tightly that the knuckles grew white, for thought had sent down a message of fear.
Then the thief suddenly let out and struck the officer in the face, cutting his cheek open. When he drew his hand back it was stained crimson.
Thought had sent down a message of blood— a message as old as the days of Cain.
The artist, like the poet, is a maker. Aware of the fact that he is an integral part of the spiritual cause that creates the objective ef fect, he goes to it as freely for inspiration as a little child goes to its mother for love and sympathy. The inspiration that comes to him while he dwells in the inner spiritual chamber, must be carried tenderly into the chamber of the mind and thence given over to the hands that it may be wrought into fair shape out of the dust of the earth. Thus, with all works of art, there must first be conception, which is of the spirit ; then meditation, which is of the mind; then the word of creation by which the man speaks to his hands and bids them obey him.
The message of true art is then the mes sage of the spirit. Aware of the presence of this inner mystery, the man is convinced that if he can draw near unto it, if he can hear its whisperings, he will be able to bring forth something that will be good for the senses and perception of other men. That he may do this faithfully, he equips himself in two ways : the one permits him to draw near to the source of life ; this is faith that there is within him the power with which to work ; the other, which is his skill and craft, is a training of mind and hand that enables him to control and guide the power into beautiful forms of truth.
Thus art speaks to us from a lofty place. Its voice is clear and its message simple. The truth to which it testifies is one truth for all men. To come into the presence Of great art is to come near unto the truth which it man ifests. Hence, the wonderful uplift of great pictures, of great music, of statues and archi tecture. The subtle quality we experience from them is not beauty alone ; it is the exhalation of the spirit itself out of which they come.
Hence true art is good for us, because it admits us into a sacred presence. We ap proach near to the source of it, and the source of it dwelling in ourselves is awakened. Art, then, reaches us not from without, but from within. First it finds us, discovers us to our selves, then it awakens us.
The message of art is not only the testi mony of beauty, it is also the testimony of every man's potentiality as an artist. It ap peals to him because it is of him.
It is good then to go to art, for by so do ing a man returns to himself. He may never have known this domain of his kingdom, he may not be aware that in him this potentiality resides ; indeed, he may live his three score years and ten and never discover it, but never theless, it is his. The source of the spring of this water of life may be so covered with the debris of the things of environment that it cannot flow, but if he would seek it he would surely find it.
We are often prone to misread the message of art and of the artist himself in forgetting the inner cause with which he works to secure the outer effect. We marvel at the skill of his hands, at the delicacy of his touch, and of his keenness of vision for color, and of hearing for tone. But these apparent marvels of the hands and senses are possible only because the artist knows that they are the keys by which he can open the material portals and bid the guest he is entertaining come forth.
Thus, the deep perception of truth and the true recognition of means on the part of the man who bids his hands obey him. This is certainly a task worthy of love and care. They are servants attendant upon the behest of the spirit. Is it any wonder, then, that there are men who talk to the hands, advising them and questioning them?