A gathering of ideas from the week:
~ I'm thinking a lot about the interplay between hope and sorrow and how both are necessary for loving this world. So many times when I come across someone who is perfectly confident of the answers, or someone who thinks they could right the world if only given enough time and power, I have to wonder if they've ever suffered, ever known the terrible space between a question and its resolution. Once you have lived in that space, you don't want assurances of hope from someone who has never had reason to doubt it; you only want people who have faced the darkness and come back humbled. Which is why, I suppose, so many Christian writers leave me cold: too many answers, not enough sorrowed humility.
~ Someone wanted to know why I haven't been expressing my faith more explicitly recently. Why, for example, at the end of a poem, can't I just say, "but God is good anyway," or perhaps, "and then I was held by the ever-loving Arms"?
Aesthetics aside, I told them, "I'm trying to learn a different language."
~ This leads me to another thought: I vote we ban all preaching and all moralizing for the next one hundred years. Let's force ourselves to share the gospel through action and service, through art and music, dance and drama, literature and poetry, gardening and architecture and photography and handcraft. Maybe it's time we all learned a different language.
~ Over dinner with a friend this week, we talked about being artists, about not being influenced by so many voices that we lose our originality. I told her of a Japanese potter I'd read about who said that he loves primitive or tribal art because it is so different from the art of modern people. They made quality things, he said, "because the artisans didn't have that many skills." The learning of skill and technique made the modern artist a professional, able to create beautiful and elegant "art", but they lost the unique force and energy that comes from the interaction with one person and a piece of clay (or a paint brush and canvas, or a pen and a word, etc.)
I came home thinking about the tender balance between the stimulus and constructive refinement of the community and the isolation and focus required for true originality. How do you keep yourself from slowly becoming absorbed into the homogenity of the culture, but also remain accessible and necessary to the community? I think this question could be applied to faith, as well as to art.
~ Caveat: if you resist absorption into the culture (even, or maybe especially, a faith culture) you will be considered dangerous. Perhaps that culture will null you by labeling you, or ignoring you, or calling your work useless, or unartistic or unorthodox or whatever. I like the idea of the primitive artist oblivious to the rules, her head down, working away at that lump of clay, crafting with her own hands and heart the vision, or perhaps the questions, she has within herself. I like how the imperfections remain and how they ask their own questions, force the mind into new directions.
Which makes me think of this quote from Leopold II to Queen Victoria in 1845:
The dealings with artists, for instance, require great prudence; they are acquainted with all classes of society, and for that very reason dangerous; they are hardly ever satisfied, and when you have too much to do with them, you are sure to have des ennuis [troubles]. . .
Let's trouble the world, shall we?