You Are An Artist

I was reading a bit today about the connection between suffering and creation.  These are the rabbit trails I chase lately as I do my best to navigate the crazy world within which we find ourselves.  

The mythology that surrounds the idea of the "suffering artist" is one that persists in our post-post-modern world, and it seems to have even more traction than ever in our current uncertain, and anxious times.  

The idea behind this mythology is that it is suffering that produces great art.  There is a kernel of truth in this, however.   For my part, I have always been haunted by a phrase from author Colleen McCullough, who famously wrote: 

"The best is only bought at the cost of great pain."

There is so much truth in that line on so many levels. It takes sacrifice to do the best things, and suffering sometimes is part of that process. 

But there is a flaw in the mythology of the perpetually suffering artist in that it does little to explain the simple fact that there are so many beautiful things that are created in a frenzy of happiness and almost giddy passion.  

More often than not the act of creating is joyful and life-giving.  

What I've come to understand more fully is that an artist is someone who is powerfully and absolutely compelled to feel---whether it be angst, anger, sadness, or joy---and then they cannot help but respond.  

Some artists are overcome by this in tragic ways, to be fair, but most aren't.  

So here's something that I want to tell you, and it's one of the truest things you will ever hear about yourself:  You are an artist.  

I know... I know... most of you reading this will push back against that, and may even think to yourself, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."  You're wrong about that, you know.  You are full of creative bones. 

Because God created you to create.  It's in your DNA.  The Master Artist fashioned you after the Artist's image.  You were gifted with feelings and stirrings.  You have been given everything you need to fulfill your artistic bent, whatever it might be. 

This means that whatever it is that you are feeling right now---you should allow yourself to feel it, and then let yourself respond.  That's what artists do.  And you are an artist.  

You will be tempted to moderate it all because you are afraid to let yourself move toward creating, but don't do it.  You may not want to feel deeply right now.  I get it.  There's a lot to feel in this time of uncertainty.  But be brave.  

The poet Mary Oliver speaks to this in her poem "A Dream of Trees."  She acknowledges that in that particular moment what she feels is a lament, and so she lets herself feel it, despite the temptation to do otherwise:  
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees. 
But let it go.  Homesick for moderation, 
half the world’s artists shrink or fall away. 
If any find solution, let him tell it. 
Meanwhile, I  bend my heart toward lamentation,  
where, as the times implore our true involvement, 
the blades of crisis point the way. 
I  would it were not so, but so it is. 
Whoever made music of a mild day? 

So if you feel joyful and full of hope--lean into that and see where it leads you.  If you feel lament and sorrow--feel it and allow yourself to discover the artist within you.  

Perhaps you need to write some things down.  Or work in your garden... or organize a virtual gathering of friends.... or cook an incredible meal... or paint.  Or a myriad of other things that reflect the DNA of the Artist within you.  

This is how we move forward through these times of trial as a community, a society, and a culture.  We feel and then we create.  We make things new.  We make new things.  We are artists, and that's what artists do---because we were taught by the Master Artist, who never ceases to create.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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