What a Flash Mob Can Teach Us About God

I saw this video a couple of years ago when it was first posted, but recently had the chance to view it again. And whether or not you’ve already seen it yourself, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to watch:

If you just (re)viewed the performance, I’d like to ask you this: why do you think it got the response that it did?

As the music grows, so does the crowd. People stop what they’re doing and orient their attention toward those playing and singing. Cell phones come out to take pictures and record video. Kids begin to “conduct” joyfully along with the music. One issues a “wow” and then later joins the song. And the entire crowd gives a long, approving ovation at the end.

I’m guessing that most of us who watch the video have similar reactions. (In fact, when I showed it to my kids today, they all quickly became engaged. My oldest began singing the melody and my younger two joined in by conducting.) But again, why do we do these things?

Sure, we could point to the fact that it’s a skilled performance. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is also one the better known pieces of music in the world. And the fact that they do it all through a flash mob is certainly attention getting.

But I think those things are the icing. They’re not exactly the cake. In my judgment the answer is a bit deeper. The reason something like this grabs out attention is because we’re wired for beauty. We’re not created to be simply functional: to be born, survive to a reproductive age, mate, and tend our offspring well enough for them to do the same. No, our attraction to beauty and other cultural pursuits is a feature, not a bug. And if we compared human beings to cars, this trait of ours would have far more in common with a basic feature like wheels, rather than a higher end item like a rear view camera.

C. S. Lewis pointed in the same direction when he wrote this:

Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. …The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They…discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This not panache; it is our nature. (from “Learning in Wartime”)

And why is this our nature? Because we’re made in the image of God, who is both the artist and patron par excellence. That is, he’s not only created a stunning and virtually endless array of beautiful things in the universe, but he also enjoys what he’s made (see Gen. 1, Psa. 104:31).

In fact, every single element of beauty in this world is, in the end, a double blessing. On one level, each is a gracious allowance from God, a gift given for us to enjoy here in the midst of a broken and often tragic world. But they’re also pointers to the source and measure of beauty, from “Ode to Joy” to hip-pop, from Shakespeare to Winnie the Pooh, from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to the clear evening sky you can see from your backyard. And as such, they remind us just how good it is to know God, and how wonderful and satisfying it will be one day to experience our relationship with him in its fullness. To put it in the words of an ancient poem:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

One Comment

  1. Matt said:

    My first answer to the why question was that it had Italian women in it. Though I meant it in humor, it appears I was partially right!

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