Before I wrote the previous essay on this blog, The Space of Creation, I typed the title of this one. I thought I was going to write about the tense relationship between Creation and Destruction, and relate that to the literary technique of Deconstruction as well as to Mark Taylor’s writings on Delight.
As usual, best-laid plans. The other essay is what came out of that effort.
So here I am again, looking at the words “Creation” and “Destruction”, and trying to figure out what I want to say. Certainly one thought I want to put down is that these two notions, like Heaven//Earth, Light//Dark and others that I have written about, form an oppositional pair whose definitions are inextricably linked to and dependent on each other. And the evidence of that in the Bible runs throughout not only the stories of Genesis – in which God repeatedly creates and destroys and creates again and threatens destruction (think of the Creation, Cain and Abel, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, the plagues of Egypt) but throughout the Biblical history that culminates, for Christians, in the Crucifixion//Resurrection.
Then there is the idea that in order to create, one inevitably destroys. This can be as prosaic a notion as that through the act of writing, one destroys the purity of the blank page, consumes graphite or ink and ultimately destroys the writing instrument (in the case of the computer, on which I am writing now, I see the evidence in keys with letters worn off. I know, too, that I have already had to replace a hard drive and mother board on this particular instrument of creation). On a more spiritual level, the expression of thought is a process of selection, of making choices that first privilege one thought over another and, possibly, destroy the outcast thoughts.
When I talked about this in church, my pastor responded with the concept of transformation as an alternative to destruction. And that makes sense. Certainly that is what is expressed in scientific terms in the First Law of Thermodynamics.
And yet, although energy and matter may be preserved when a person, a place or a thing is reduced to rubble and ash, a form is destroyed. In some real sense, the “creation” is destroyed even though the substance may be transformed at an elemental and energetic level.
That’s not terribly different from the destruction of the Earth through mining that provides minerals used to produce paint used by the artist, or the destruction of trees to produce wood used by the carpenter.
I don’t know that there’s anything terribly profound in those thoughts, but it is something I keep in mind.
In raising this subject to my class, I used two examples of works of contemporary art that caused controversy through their explorations of creation and destruction. The first, “Piss Christ,” is a photograph by the American artist Andres Serrano that depicts a plastic crucifix submerged in a jar of the artist’s urine. This photograph became the subject of congressional hearings in 1987 after it was awarded a prize funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.