Whether it’s in a cathedral or a Korean movie, some acts of creative perfection will only ever be seen by relatively few.
For the last few years the high nave ceiling of Canterbury Cathedral has been hidden by planks of wood while essential repair work took place. I went in one day for Evensong and was awestruck to look up and see the planks gone and the ceiling visible again in all of its glory, complete with its abundance of little details almost imperceptible to the naked eye. Even better than that was the sight of the radiant stained-glass windows just below the ceiling. “Are those windows new?” I asked one of the stewards, convinced that I’d never seen them before. “No, they’ve just been cleaned,” she replied. As with the intricate ceiling, there will be a variety of details in those windows that are only observable close up, which means that decades or even centuries can go by with nobody seeing them at all. Yet, that didn’t stop the original artist from creating the most beautiful thing they possibly could.
Likewise, there were certain details in the Great East Window of York Minster that were seen for the first time in decades when it was being restored recently. With it being the size of a tennis-court some of the high-up touches of artistic brilliance will not now be seen again until the next time the scaffolding goes up!
Yim Soon and I were watching a 2019 Korean romance film whose English title is Tune in For Love and whose grand finale involves a Coldplay song. In the context of the film the song is quite simply perfect, and yet the full meaning and significance of the lyrics, plus the reference to the accompanying music video, will be fully appreciated by fairly few people.
At the heart of the drama is a young man whose days in a juvenile detention centre had been punctuated by a certain radio show. On his day of release he goes into a bakery to buy something containing tofu, this being what people do in Korea when they come out of prison, the white of the tofu symbolising their desire to lead a more pure life! The young woman in the shop is playing on the radio the show he used to listen to and this is the start of a relationship which, for various reasons, is on and off over several years, although they manage to maintain contact indirectly via the radio show. He almost loses her completely when, at a certain point, his demons get the better of him. He gradually turns his life around and ends up getting a job as video editor on the very radio show that had sustained him in prison and brought them together, and on his first day the presenter asks if he’d like to give a ‘call-out’ to anyone. He gives the name of the woman.
She happens to be listening to that radio show and her face lights up as she hears her name read out on air. She gets up from her desk in the office where she works and leaves. And meanwhile, the soundtrack, beginning ever so faintly, is Fix you. ‘What a great choice of song,’ I thought to myself, but there was even better to come. We see the woman going outside and starting to run, at the very moment when the song increases in tempo and where, in the video for the song, Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin begins to sprint through the streets of London, before appearing on stage at a stadium gig to finish the song, and the concert, with his bandmates!
The woman arrives at the radio station just as the song slows down at its close and she spots the man through the window. She smiles at and gives the thumbs up to this man whose life has been saved, in part, by her love for him. He smiles back and we hear the final line of the song, ‘And I will try…to fix you.’ And the film ends.
Few people may ever get to see or hear or appreciate the little acts of creation and beauty that we might bring into the world, but what profound pleasure it can give to those who do.