After some thought I decided that if I was pushed I would say that I believe in possibilities, and of those possibilities, that of renewal is the most significant. The arch-metaphor for which has to be nature's continual thrust for renewal. David Nash is a sculptor who works with, co-operates with, nature. He was originally associated with the Land Art movement, but now is a sculptor who works pretty much only with trees. He will take a whole mature tree and over a period of time find numerous sculptures in it, but he never takes anything that nature does not give. He will use only trees that have fallen or are so diseased that they have had to be felled. He has told how he works within the natural cycle. Trees - like people - do not just die, they are programmed to die. If you fell a healthy tree and use its wood to make a table, and if you take that table into your home, you are taking that wood out of its natural cycle. Then, when you are finished with the table and put it outside, you will be putting it back into its cycle. Some of his outdoor sculptures are designed to facilitate the natural decay. He has programmed the constant renewal - and therefore the ultimate death - of the sculpture into its creation.
Death is part of renewal. It's why the body's cells continually die in their programmed way. Nature continually renews itself, and we are part of nature. There is a very old joke concerning a man hard at work in his cottage garden when the parson cycles up and stops to pass the time of day. "How beautiful is nature," observes the parson, "when man and God co-operate!" "Indeed," replies the gardener without looking up, "but you should have seen the mess He made of it when He had it to himself!" That's looking at nature from a man-oriented perspective, of course. Leave the garden to its own devices and soon enough the weeds, trees, brambles and no end of other stuff will be thrusting up through the patio. A mess from the householder's point of view, though not from nature's. Left alone indefinitely it will go back to a very different sort of beauty.
So, in what do you put your trust? It depends, I suppose, what your intention is, what - if you like - you want from life? Do you want to believe in the possibility of life after death. That you will meet up with your loved ones in some form or other? Or do you want to make sense of life, death, creation and the universe? And if the latter, do you need to make sense of it in personal terms or from a more nature-oriented viewpoint? Do you, perhaps, just want to settle for peace on earth and to see man behaving with more humanity to his fellow man? Do you want to believe in the sustainability of life on earth, a viable earth into the future?
The human mind also needs to renew itself, which explains in part why our exalted thought systems stutter and fail one after another, none lasting for long. Philosophy was probably the first to go. It simply failed to keep abreast of learning and thereby failed to renew itself. Organised religion is in a parlous condition from the same failing. We have divided the one God up between ourselves - Christian, Muslim and others - even Catholic and non-conformist - and we have each run off with our different bit of the carcass to consume in our own way. It is probably not too late for organised religion to step back from the brink - as, alas, it seems to be for philosophy. Science, too, is almost at the point of no return - but here again, it all depends upon your objectives: what you want from the discipline in question. I remember a speaker being asked once why he thought Communism had failed. "It didn't fail," he replied. "Like Christianity, it's never been tried." Of all the thought systems, the political ones seem always to be the shortest lived.
Interestingly, perhaps, David Nash works from a former Welsh chapel. At any one time it will contain up to four hundred sculptures. It has been suggested to him that it now enjoys its biggest congregation ever. Art and religion have over most of their history, I suppose, been closely associated, for both try to awaken the spiritual in man. At times and in places they have been indistinguishable. In Western culture art has mainly been subservient to religion, but many (myself included) find the roles to be reversing. Maybe it is the hope that we have of what life will ultimately pay out, that is changing. Wallace Stevens is one who thinks this way. It was a great relief to me when I came upon such poems as "The Man with the Blue Guitar" and "Sunday Morning" and discovered that greater minds than mine were thinking these thoughts. Here are are some lines from the former:-
" Poetry Exceeding music must take the place of empty heaven and its hymns, Ourselves in poetry must take their place Even in the chattering of your guitar."