Journeys and values: Why the path matters

Unitarian Universalism’s First Source affirms for me that the core of my faith lies in the how of our religion, rather than the what.

JEFFREY A. LOCKWOOD | 10/30/2017

While hiking in the Julian Alps of Slovenia this summer, I had an epiphany involving the Mona Lisa, nature, and religion. It wasn’t quite a Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment, but the insight was better than most of my fleeting realizations. Let me explain.

In my university course on aesthetics, I challenge the students with a thought experiment about the Mona Lisa (or whatever painting they like best). Imagine being provided the option of receiving as a gift the original painting or, by virtue of a newfangled technology, an atom-for-atom copy of the original. Which would you prefer? The only difference between the two is how they came to be. 

Classes are often split on this decision, with each half flummoxed by the other. Some strongly desire the original while others don’t care which they receive (nobody seems to definitely prefer the copy, which is revealing). The central question is: Does it matter how artwork is made? Is the story of its production relevant to its value? For some students, all that matters is the object itself and in my hypothetical scenario there is no basis for preferring one over the other. But for others, the context of creation—the journey as well as the arrival—is absolutely crucial. READ MORE HERE

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