Art in Life and Work

Words and Wonder-ings to Hearten the Creative – Who Is, and Serves, Art

For those who would serve the work of creativity – who must, in order to be true to their life’s (or this moment’s) call – there is a wonder in this serving and seeking.

art-heartsWhether one’s work is with words or mixed media, paint or clay, glass or stone, metal or cloth, threads or tonalities, human movement or drafting, musical instruments or voices, drafting boards or firing ovens, food stuffs or growing things, human interaction/dynamics, the knowledge or wisdom of the ages and ways to educate, or the soul’s own journey – the process of seeing and creating and collaborating is rife with amazement and not-too-few tears.  Carnage is done in shaving off what once seemed precious and necessary to an end product, in seeking what is at heart and truest.  Materials and words and worlds fall at the feet around the tables where we create, as we chase and name the fleeting glimpses we see sideways and fabricate textures with our media that approximate our visions.

If each of us is “God’s work of art” (says Paul’s epistle), I wonder what truth we express in flesh and sinew.

Is it love, most of all?  Are our different textures of temperament and giftedness reflections of the color and variety of goodness?   What were the remnants cut away in our creation, to get at the truth that resulted in each of us?  Our core is important to the Artist, and is a delight to be treasured in this large Creation’s art show.  There we are, displayed next to the Milky Way and the intricacy of a butterfly’s wing.

God’s art in human form is functional too and participates in creating more beauty and spreads the circle ever outward.  We are makers too, splashing life and color with our work and selves like spin art at a carnival which ecstatic children whirl and splatter paint everywhere.  Thus we continue the efforts begun by God and stamped in the hard drive of our hearts, not entirely knowing what we are about, but recognizing when the art we serve approximates in its process or product more closely some element of who we most are, and what is most true about life-love-work-suffering-joy-the human-the divine-the journey.  We often do not know what we set out to name or visually represent, but we know the creating itself is a good and serves.

Our beings and our efforts then are art-in-process.  And we have need of a muse, a companion, an inSpiration to carry us.  Our art-ing often comes forth from the vulnerable and most sensitive centers where we see and feel and breathe and fear and dance and seek, and we need still points and words and ways that tell us that this ‘hunt’ is ‘worthy of all tears’.

And so I share these well hewn words from Carmelite poet Jessica Powers to hearten those involved in this journey which gives joy and also costs the journeyer.   May we know ourselves accompanied, and find our seeking draws us home.

Since the luminous great wings of wonder stirred
over me in the twilight I have known
the Holy Spirit is the Poet’s Bird.

Since in a wilderness I wandered near
a shining stag, this wisdom is my own:
the Holy Spirit is the Hunter’s Deer.

And in the dark in all enchanted lands
I know the Spirit is that Burning Bush
toward which the artist gropes with outstretched hands.

Upon the waters once and then again
I saw the Spirit in a silver rush
rise like the Quarry of the Fisherman.

Yet this I know: no arrows of desire
can wound Him, nor a bright intrepid spear;
He is not seen by any torch of fire,

nor can they find Him who go wandering far;
His habitat is wonderfully near
in each soul’s thicket ‘neath its deepest star.

Let those who seek come home through the vain years
to where the Spirit waits a shining captive.
This is the hunt most worthy of all tears.
Bearing their nets celestial, let them come
and take their Quarry on the fields of rapture
that lie beyond the last gold pendulum.

– Jessica Powers

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Carmelite, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

IF Work and Life are Art…

…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.

In spirituality studies, we say that the study of spirituality implicates the student.  Of course it does!  Are there other ways your life and your work tutor you, as they emerge?

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?

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Coaching, Spiritual Direction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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