Aristotle and the Art of Shalom
I have been reading a book called Farming as a Spiritual Discipline by Ragan Sutterfield the past few weeks. In it, I encountered an idea that offers a serious insight across most of life.
Sutterfield explains the Aristotelian concept of Stochastic art. This is any practice where the artist works within a predetermined system or organism with the goal of bringing that system to a place of health. For example, a doctor’s task is not to create something new but to work within the canvas of a human body to assist the person toward optimum flourishing. This is true of the farmer, as he works to make his property abundant within the land’s contours and the local ecology.
It is also true of community development. The developer approaches his community with a sensitivity for the place’s unique characteristics--studying the culture, values and assets within the system--and cultivates them towards shalom.
Greek thought has its pitfalls, but if handled well I think this idea reveals something of the nature of sanctification, the process toward discipleship and the messy nature of participating with God’s work to let it be on earth as it is in heaven. As Sutterfield says, these “are arts that can never be mastered.” There is a constant progression of discovery, of cresting one rise only to discover still higher peaks in the distance. In the effort to become like Jesus and to bring forth the New Creation, we discover the paradox that we can never be closer to our journey’s end when that end is infinite. It still lies just as far away as when we began. Though our quest is interminable, it does not cause us despair but amazingly becomes a wellspring of hope, for around each bend life is bursting onto the scene with new colors and fruits to be tasted. In this way, we learn just how graciously generous God truly is.