A few years ago, a new twist on an ancient art form took the art world by storm. At that time, Jessica Bush at BuzzWorthy.com wrote, “A modern day take on the old method of sand painting (which has been used by some of the world’s oldest cultures), salt art is breathing new life into the world’s most common food seasoning,” (Bush, 2017).
Unlike with other forms of visual art, salt art such as that shown in the images above, is destroyed after completion.
Salt is a “mineral composed of sodium chloride (NaCl). In its natural form, it’s called rock salt or halite,” and it is vital to the nourishment “of all mammals, including humans,” (Micu, 2015). For this reason salt has been “sought after since before the Antiquity – the first evidence of extracting salt (by boiling spring water) comes from Romania, and there is evidence of a saltworks in China in about the same period. It was highly valued by the Chinese and Arabs, as well as the Romans and Greeks. Roman soldiers were actually sometimes paid in salt – this is where the word ‘salary’ comes from,” (Micu, 2015).
There are a variety of methods used to obtain salt. At the Dead Sea, salt is obtained through solar evaporation pools, a “more old-school way of obtaining salt. You just leave the evaporation part to wind and the Sun, leaving the salt behind. Salt evaporation ponds are filled from the ocean and salt crystals can be harvested as the water dries up. It is usually harvested once a year when the salt reaches a specific thickness. This only works in areas with a specific climate (high temperatures and low precipitations), like in the Mediterranean area,” (Micu, 2015).
“Salt is one of the most common and yet most controversial substances on Earth – you can’t really live without it, but too much of it might kill you,” (Micu, 2015). The Dead Sea is the perfect example of this precarious reality.
At 9.6 times more salty than the ocean, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water on planet Earth. Due to this high level of salinity, the Dead Sea cannot support any life (hence its name). It is, in fact, too salty.
Salt gives us flavor, acts as a preservative, and provides nourishment to our bodies. These vital functions of salt are important for understanding what Jesus meant when He called for us to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-14).
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.“
We are called to be salt: to flavor the world, to preserve a culture/community so that it does not become totally rotten, and to nourish those around us. We are to speak up for the falsely accused, to stand for the preservation of life (which begins at conception), to speak for God’s justice in the world, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Consider the words spoken to the Israelites in Isaiah 58:6-12. The tribes had returned to the land after being scattered, and the people had become complacent. They worshiped God in ritual, but had no love. For this, the Lord said:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
At the same time, we must remember that too much salt spoils flavor, corrodes that which we wish to preserve, and disallows the flourishing of life. If we allow ourselves to become too salty, we make ourselves unapproachable. A Holier-Than-Thou attitude repels the needy, the suffering, the unsure. If our actions in the world are too salty, we become as corrosive as the Dead Sea.
So, let us all remember to be light, but never blinding; to be salt, but not salty. May each of us flavor the world and nourish our neighbor to the glory of the Lord.
Bush, J. (2017, October 19). ‘Salt Art’: the New Trend Capturing the World’s Attention. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.buzzworthy.com/salt-art/
Micu, A. (2015, March 19). Where our salt comes from – a dive into the spectacular and harsh world of salt extraction. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.zmescience.com/other/science-abc/salt-extraction/