Our rebellion was to seek out the orthodoxy...

Blogged by James on 21st January 2014

Ben Cornish is a juggler from Exeter, which happens to be where I studied for my degree - though that has nothing to do with this blog post. I've never met Ben Cornish and we have never exchanged either emails or carrier pigeons. He is, in the great tradition of magic tricks, a total stranger to me.

Everything you are about to see took place in front of a live studio audience. There are no camera tricks. The hand is quicker than the eye. Don't worry I'm not going to saw him in half and yes, I made up the bit about the studio audience.

Anyways.. this evening I was reading a blog post Ben Cornish wrote about his time as a theatre student...

My dance training was the teaching of someone who had good technique herself but did not impose it on her students…our training was much concerned with ‘image work’ and rolling around on the floor a lot ,searching for……who knows what. ‘The floor is your friend’ was my dance teachers mantra in our first year…I didn’t find it to be the case and had the bruises to prove it! It was a great irony that by the time we reached the 3rd and 4th years , despite being a highly politicised group of students with all sorts of anarchic ideas and principles we were begging to be taught to proper ballet technique ….our rebellion was to seek out the orthodoxy that had been rejected by the dancers of 2 or 3 generations before us !


As you can see, the card Ben selected from the deck is the very one I've been banging on about for years. Amazing.

Did you know there are loads of twenty-something Catholics in this country with a similar story about their religious upbringing.. "we were young, we were rebellious, so we said enough with your rubbish, give us the truth!"

What's interesting is how the story seems to be repeated across all areas of human endeavor. When I learned to draw, when I learned woodwork, when I learned Latin... and now I hear it from a juggling theater student.

The story always seems to be the same.

It begins with some time time honored, long standing, traditional, way of doing things that was hard work but lead to genuine beauty, truth and goodness. Ah yes, it may have had it's faults and could have done with some development or evolution but it had the right goal.

Then there was the big revolution and it wasn't a revolution in method it was a revolution in intention. Everywhere people said "let's stop intending to do good and let's say, from now on, that everything is good (except orthodoxy)". Goodness was no longer the goal.

You can do that for a while because if you grew up learning your catechism or ballet or realistic drawing or whatever then even as you boldly announce that your classical training is worthless you carry on using the skills you have without even realising it.

The problem comes when the training which was abandoned as worthless is denied to successive generations - they are less able to wing it and eventually you end up with art teachers who can't draw and Ballet teachers who can't do ballet if you ask them about it they explain that you are terribly old fashioned and everybody knows that drawing is about far more than just making pictures that look like things and by the way would you leave now please?

Gradually we are beginning to reach a generation who go to college to learn art or dance or woodwork or whatever and find themselves doing papier mache models (abstract ones of course) and rolling around on the floor.

Some of them say to themselves "what is this rubbish?" and their rebellion ends up becoming a quest for orthodoxy.

As I said - the interesting thing is how the story seems to be repeated across all areas of human endeavor. Drawing, woodwork, latin, ballett.. No area of life seems untouched - even shaving.. When the fossil record tells you that all the animals and plants died out at the same time.. you know something big happened. We are talking about spiritual devestation of seismic proportions.

I consider it a great sign of hope then, to find so many people in so many area of life in open rebellion against it. All over the place, from seminaries to dance studios, people can be found saying "no" to the powers and principalities of this world.

Many of those people are not Catholics and many would call themselves atheists yet they share a common goal of beauty, truth and goodness - that put's them a lot closer to God than some Catholics!

Their rebellion is to seek out the orthodoxy.

You never know... they might even find it.