Working down the hall from a group of scholars has its perks. Whether I’m curious about the hominids, ad hominems, or the Large Hadron Collider; Hugh, Fuz, Jeff, and Ken will have an answer that is both thoughtful and comprehendible. But not all our conversations orbit around the heavy stuff, so to speak.
Maureen and I once found ourselves in a discussion with Hugh about the scientific plausibility of Star Wars versus Star Trek. And Fuz, Jeff, and Ken have allowed me into their elite club long enough to give a philosophical argument on why my team (fantasy or otherwise) will cream theirs.
Another frequently discussed topic is music. Hugh prefers classical; Jeff likes contemporary Christian; Fuz is the blues expert; and Ken, though voted “Biggest Beatle fan” in high school, now calls Steve Winwood his favorite artist. Though the musical tastes at RTB vary, we all share at least a nominal appreciation for music. Apparently our ancestors did too.
Let the Music Play
Some 40,000 years ago “musical and artistic expression virtually exploded onto the scene.” This sudden surge of creativity, which scientists often refer to as the “cultural big bang,” coincided with the appearance of modern humans.
The bipedal primates that preceded humans lacked such capacities. Biochemist and blues man Fuz notes, “At best, bipedal primates used extremely crude tools that remained static in sophistication for hundreds of thousands of years.” This rapid co-appearance of humans and culture stands in stark contrast with what one would expect from an evolutionary perspective (a gradual change over a long period of time). Yet it strengthens the biblical creation perspective that distinguishes humans from the rest of creation.
Imago Dei, oh!
Genesis 1:26-27 describes man and woman as being made in God’s image. Set apart as distinct from the rest of His creation, humans are the only species who display the spiritual qualities of our Creator.
Philosopher/theologian and Beatles enthusiast Ken Samples lays out a few of the qualities that separate man from animals:
Human beings alone:
- have an inherent spiritual and religious nature
- possess intellectual, cultural, and communicative abilities.
- have a deep need to communicate with each other
- are aware of time, reality, and truth
In contrast, Ken adds, our animal friends:
- show no signs of spirituality or concern with ultimate issues
- do not work with abstraction or ask philosophical questions
- do not inquire into metaphysical, epistemological, and logical questions
Nor do they dabble in the arts (at least not without human interference).
When one thinks of the arts, particularly mainstream music, it could be difficult to see the Creator’s hand in it. Yet, as a passionate music lover, I’ve found some of the most touching—and lasting—songs were written by spiritually ambiguous artists.
Songs like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (written before his conversion to Christianity), Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” and REM’s “Losing My Religion” demonstrate an awareness of the world and culture around us and ponder ultimate issues.
Music shows how all of humanity reflects the distinct spiritual qualities our heavenly Father. Whether through tribal rhythms, poignant lyrics, or powerful vocals, the artist exhibits the same creative qualities that were passed on to us from our Creator.
Check out these articles for more on the cultural big bang:
Maureen and I aren’t just coworkers and fellow editors/bloggers, we’re also very good friends with very different tastes. She’s a movie buff and hardcore Star Wars fan, while I prefer music of all genres (indie rock and world music are among my favorite). In about a week our favorite diversions will merge at the Hollywood Bowl as we take in John Williams and the Music of the Movies. Find us on Facebook to see pictures.