How many of us have walked past a beautiful bouquet of flowers but decided against the purchase because of the more necessary or pressing things we needed to buy or do? Makoto Fujimura opens his book with a story about the way a bouquet of flowers impacted his own life. When he challenged his wife, who had purchased the flowers, about the scarcity of cash for their basic necessities she replied, “We need to feed our souls, too.” Flowers and beauty in all its variations are not frills; they are essential to a life of wholeness as much as any loaf of bread.
As an artist who paints beautiful canvases, Fujimara is also an artist of thoughts and words. Culture Care is his gentle invitation to readers to love and be stewards of the arts for the sake of flourishing in this world. Current cultural and political realities have created high levels of anxiety; cultivating beauty is an antidote to that landscape.
Fujimura uses the idea of mearcstapas, an Old English word used in Beowulf. Mearcstapas are the people who live on the borders, border-walkers and stalkers, not unlike Strider in The Lord of the Rings. These are our artists, often the outliers within our own communities, particularly within the Christian church. They need to be recognized for their important role and thus enfolded (or perhaps invited back) into our communities.
Drawing parallels between stewardship of culture and stewardship of nature, Fujimura challenges communities to cultivate “soil” where the arts might flourish, be celebrated, and offer hope. Our communities might then become estuaries of beauty creation. Culture Care is an invitation to become involved in creating spaces and places for the care and nurturing of arts cultures through artistic, social, or material gifts.
Fujimura also offers words of encouragement to young artists. Making a living as an artist is hard work and often requires other employment. He challenges artists not to see these jobs as just “putting bread on the table” but ones that allow them to flourish in their chosen area of artistic expressions.
Culture Care is an engaging and accessible read. It includes a foreword by Mark Labberton and a discussion guide. Recommended for teachers and students of culture and arts, it is also an excellent selection for a book club or study group.
The next time you think about buying that bouquet of flowers for your love, a neighbor, a stranger, or yourself, do it. It will be a small, tangible act of culture care. (InterVarsity)