So you’ve probably seen by now, the Simpsons opening from this previous Sunday night. Maybe you’ve heard that it was brilliant. Maybe you’ve heard that it’s dark. But the point is that you’ve heard about it. Which is unusual isn’t it? When was the last time that people were talking about the opening credits of the Simpsons?
This idea started a few months ago when the writers of the Simpsons decided to try and get ahold of a guy named Banksy to write the opening scene for them. Now if you haven’t heard of Banksy…repent. Banksy is the best example of a modern day prophet that I know of. He majors in street theater…specifically in street vandalism…Like this:
Now before you start thinking about the high cost of vandalism, you need to know a couple of things. 1. Cities want Banksy to create on their sidewalks or walls, even if they don’t know it yet. His sidewalk art is selling for millions of dollars to high profile people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But the other thing you need to know about Banksy is this 2. No one has any idea who he is. Seriously, he just shows up, does his stuff (sometime in the dead of night and other times in broad daylight) and no one has ever even seen him. He does it, not for fame, or fortune (he never sees a cent of the money that his art sells for). He paints walls and streets, zoos and bridges for another reason altogether.
In his book, Existstencilism, Banksy tells a story that gives some insight into who he is, and how he sees the world. It’s a story about the liberation of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp by a soldier in the British Army. This will rock your world:
“I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywher, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.
It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing could save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit becasue they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.
Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.
It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wantering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”
And this is why Banksy does what he does. Because he knows the danger of walking through a world where we see more concrete slabs than flowers. He knows that while we may have learned to run the world quite efficiently, there is always the danger that we have stopped learning how to see those around us. And so Banksy adds some color to our lives, and sometimes it painful, and sometimes it’s funny. But it’s always profound.
Did you ever notice the nature of the Prophets in the Old Testament? Sometimes they’d publicly lay on their side for a year, like you do, just to make a point. Other time they’d cook their food over feces so God could communicate through them. One guy intentionally married a prostitute who would cheat on him…Just to show the world how God feels.
Prophets were the Street Theater’s of the day. When people tell me that their spiritual gifts are prophecy I think we should wonder if that means they mime.
But, just in case you start to think this was all just for show, go back and read some of the prophets. They’re main point was and always is, if you say you care about God…It’s got to show in how you treat the people around you. Now I don’t know the faith of Banksy, I’d love to tell you that He is a follower of Jesus, who does all of this in his name. But the one thing I know is this: Banksy sees people, and helps us to do the same.
So Thanks for the Lipstick Banksy. You’re a prophet.