I don’t think I could tell you much about the houses or gardens on my street. I tend to use it almost exclusively to get from my home to the tram (for which I always seem to be running late). And so I rarely ever notice things about it — let alone enjoy them.
I’m sure that the Nineteenth Century English intellectual John Ruskin would rebuke me for this. Ruskin was keen that everyone learn to draw — not so much to flood the world with bad art as to restore to us the habits of curiosity and attention:
Now, remember … that I have not been trying to teach you to draw, only to see. Two men are walking through Clare Market, one of them comes out at the other end not a bit wiser than when he went in; the other notices a bit of parsley hanging over the edge of a butter-woman’s basket, and carries away with him images of beauty which in the course of his daily work he incorporates with it for many a day. I want you to see things like these.
The issue isn’t how such curiosity and attention gets expressed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s drawing, painting, poetry, music … even science.
The issue is that it’s incredibly difficult to stoke the fires of curiosity and attention when you’re at home, surrounded by the familiar (as I am when I hurry down my street).
Yet I’m sure you’ve noticed how, in an unfamiliar environment (such as when you’re travelling), even the most mundane things can invite the kind of attention Ruskin wants us to display.
Which brings me to our Christian hope. Because, as 1 Peter puts it, the ‘living hope’ secured for us by the risen Jesus makes us ‘aliens and strangers’ — wherever we are. It puts us out of joint with our culture and society, rendering them oddly unfamiliar.
As a result, curiosity and attention should be second nature for us. Shouldn’t it?
Surely we should be those who draw — or paint or compose or study — out of our Christian hope…