“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” - Cesar A. Cruz
This is a quote that many artists hold dear. I suspect that this is because it resonates deeply by giving ‘meaning’ to what the function of their art is for. It creates value for the work of the artist. To some, like me, it is a standard to aspire to.
When I first saw this quote, I instantly felt a certain affinity with it. However, as I continued to mull on the words, I began to wonder if the quote's relevance could also be explored with religion. What if one of the functions of religion is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable?
I'm going to explore this notion from the perspective of a Christian, because well, I'm a Christian. In fact, I want to try and explore the idea that Jesus too was sent to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
In John 16:33, Jesus proclaims, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world", affirming us that in Him, we can indeed be comforted from all the troubles that we will inevitably be faced with. This is something that many of us are familiar with, but the next part of Cesar A. Cruz's quote is what truly challenged my thinking – Does God disturb the comfortable?
Throughout scripture, we can see that it is only when one is challenged beyond his / her comfort zone that breakthrough happens. Moses was brought out of his comfort zone (in the Egyptian palace and in overcoming his fear of speaking to Pharaoh) before he could set his people free. Abraham was called out of his comfort zone (leaving his family and his land) to build a great nation. Jesus also mentions in the parable of the vine in John 15 that “every branch that bears fruit he prunes”. In agriculture, pruning is to essentially disturb and even ‘shock’ the plant out of its comfort zone, just so that the plant will be able to grow further. So it seems that being 'disturbed' is a natural progression if we want to rise above many odds.
But what happens when we get too comfortable?
I think that it is interesting to note that when King David committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he was in that moment in a rather comfortable place. War was going on but he was kept comfortable in his palace, ‘getting up from his bed and walking around on the roof’ (2 Samuel 11). This in my opinion is a warning about why it is so important to constantly be disturbed in our moments of being ‘comfortable’.
When the above quote about the function of ‘art’ is being juxtaposed with the work of Christ (to comfort and to disturb), I find that it leaves me personally with one conclusion: Jesus should be the ultimate inspiration for my art.
May you constantly be 'disturbed' in your selfish comforts, so that you will always be equipped with the capacity of bringing comfort to the disturbed.
An artwork by Luis Quiles, a Spanish artist, that I have found to disturb the comfortable. I know I have been personally provoked to think.
John Holcroft's minimalistic renditions of our society today serves to also question what fuels us.