Meanderings, Practices

Practiced habits speak

I’m trying to write a book right now of memoirs of coming to New York in the 1980s and what that was all like. And one of the things that occurred to me is that — I was in the art world in those years. I was hanging out, getting a degree in art history, God help me, and all that. And the weird thing about it is that I realized then that understanding modern art really was like a religion, inasmuch as it was a practice before it was a dogma: that you could never really get it by understanding the way one picture had changed another, how Cubism had created Expressionism, which created Surrealism, and so on; that it was a practice of interpretation.

And I think that that’s something that is still insufficiently well understood, that what religion brings us is not a dogma but a practice. That’s the rich thing it brings us. That’s the significant thing that it brings us, and that the idea of having a spiritual practice is one that’s completely compatible with the idea of being extremely skeptical of dogma; that those two things are not at war. They may be in tension, the way so many rich things in our life are in tension, but they’re not at war.

Adam Gropnik in an extended conversation at On Being with Krista Tippett.