…very much like the art of giving something/someone birth or flesh – THEN we should expect to spend a lot of time pregnant, at the edge, on the verge, hungering for odd things, perhaps cranky, wonderfully hopeful, terrified, thrilled, tired, focused, experiencing, kicked, part of something magical and stupendous, at the service of amazement and mystery, wanting to share the wonder, needing support, surprised, glowing, crampy, bloated, a part of creation in a whole new way, expecting pain, anticipating birth, in search of experienced companions and caregivers, in touch with the small in life and the huge in existence, amazingly practical, full of vision, doubting, celebrating, dancing, crying, and plodding along day by day in anticipation, certain of life wriggling and reaching within which will one day burst forth with its own needs and gifts.
I have been reading a good bit of Madeleine L’Engle’s work (again) of late on art and creativity. (See especially Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and a lovely collection compiled by Carole Chase titled Madeleine L’Engle: Herself.) Madeleine eloquently tells us that if we are given a work, we are invited to be a servant of this work, humbling learning a little of what it would teach us. The work that is our life and our lifework has gifts for us, if we would be open to being learners.
Try these examples. If you are a teacher, your teaching teaches you. A writer is taught by the process and characters and images, and finds herself written. A musician is tutored by the notes and progressions and feel of music and quality of sound and tone. A painter finds himself painted by the colors and shapes used and emerging. A parent finds him or herself in the child and in the expression of the ongoing relationship that is mysterious. A physical therapist is entranced by the wonder of body and movement, and the process of freeing that calls to her in others and herself. A mathematician joys in the logic and mystery of numbers, and their description of the universe, and finds himself counted and measured. An architect uncovers truth in the process of design and the ways things combine and create, and the ways various components support and make beautiful each other.
We are all artists and creators, and we are engaged in the mundane and meaningful everyday duty and privilege of serving the life and work we have been given, that emerges through every moment of our story’s unfolding. We often don’t know the ultimate direction or flow of our life or work but we can awake to the wonder of what’s really going on (most religions call this awareness or recollection or waking up). We can find joy in serving the mystery of new life unfolding and can even sometimes shape to varying degrees, with due respect for the rules that govern our art, the expression and direction of this gift with our agency, our physical and mystical fingertips!
Today my musings lead me to wonder how our perspectives would change if we understood ourselves truly as artists in this way, engaged – with God – in every moment in the creative process that is the dynamism of life, giving and creating through our living and our work.
- How would I understand when I feel blocked, stuck, unable? What would tell me if the block is a normal response to being inbetween and something not being entirely ready yet to emerge – or if it is the result of a practice that keeps me from taking care of nurturing the life and gift I have been given?
- What new compassion might I have on my own – and others’ – struggles in acting in new ways or taking new paths, given the complexity of the process of ‘birthing’?
- Where would I find the best midwives for various aspects of my life and work, who would help hearten me as I go, yet keep me moving and nurturing, breathing and pushing, and leading to new births?
- What systems and practices would I create, or reinforce, that enable me to reflect on my living, so that I don’t lose track of what my life and work would like to teach me? (journaling? theological reflection? praxis exercises? right brain creations? lists and records?)
- Who are my immediate ‘family’ of fellow journeyers, and how can we encourage and challenge each other as life-work artists?
- Who is the God of the artist’s journey – of yours and my journey? Does this lead to any new or sideways glimpse of God-with-us, or reinforce other images? What images of God are we invited to explore, or to leave behind, as we meet the living, loving, creating and creator God?
- What are the everyday, mundane, practical, pragmatic, consistent practices that will support you and nurture the creative process? What one thing might we add? What one thing might we let go of? Need more sleep? Less rich food? More quiet, reflection? More time in nature? More time with ‘midwives’? Less cluttered space?
IF WORK and LIFE are ART…. how do you finish the sentence? What question for the rest of us would you raise?