The Role of the Artist

“This is the time for us to listen to the artist as he tries to tell us who we are and what we can become.”

On April 2, 1968, the film 2001 A Space Odyssey made its premier. The very next day, Planet of the Apes premiered. Both were dystopic works of art. I don’t know if Rabbi Olan liked these particular films, but it is clear from his April 7, 1968 sermon, “The Role of the Artist,” that he deeply appreciated art in all forms that prodded people to feel the brokenness of their lives and of our world.

“The pity of much modern life is that we do not know how to experience either love or tragedy. We are alienated from each other, and from our real selves.” Life filled with logic and reason but devoid of the experience of emotion leads to a sense of disconnected emptiness.

How can people who live fragmented, compartmentalized lives specializing in minutiae ever see the larger picture or find wholeness? Rabbi Olan urged his listeners to let modern artists disturb their hearts in prophetic ways. And for this, he even named a Biblical precedent. God was the first to call an artist to fill the emotional void.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.
Follow this link to watch the scrolling-text video.

*Written by Tim Binkley*