musings of a saint and sinner

Saturday, December 30, 2006

the urge to create

My creative mind has gotten so dull in seminary. Unfortunately, seminary tends to be a place that focuses on the mind to the exclusion of wonder, art, or childlike faith. Art is viewed with some acceptance as long as one can cognitively express why it is important. But the other two are all too often scoffed at. I had a professor in seminary who dared to tell me that the faith of my childhood was not something to be scoffed at, but the kind of thing that people carry into life and death...the kind of thing that sustains people in the worst of circumstances. It is substantive and real. And so I have been encouraged that just because something is simple, it does not make it untrue. And just because something is complex, does not make it true. I dare to hold on to the faith of my childhood, and believe that the God I knew as a child is the same God that I know now, the God found in Jesus Christ who intimately cares about His children.

But what of creativity? I saw Cate Blanchett on the Charlie Rose show yesterday, and felt a sense of yearning when I heard her speak eloquently of the craft of acting. I spent time this week commiserating with college friends, and remembering the good old days when I felt that anything was possible, when art was alive and pulsing, when I used to sit up late at night and talk about writing. I remember my writing classes and the long hours I used to spend discussing writing and literature with my English professors. I remember how much time they poured into nurturing me. Now, I feel domesticated when it comes to the arts...I have nothing stirring me into greater creativity. I am mediocre. A spectator, as Kierkegaard would say. I miss writing so desperately, but I wonder if I still have anything to say. Words seem so old, so overused. It's all been said before. What can I possibly bring to the table that is new? But even in our digitized, cynical, loss-of-innocence, wonder-less world, artists still are sometimes capable of capturing out hearts. Sometimes they can still change us. And maybe sometimes all they can do is soften our heart to hear something that is true, something that we would not have otherwise heard.

Back to Kierkegaard. He criticized people that were spectators instead of getting out in the world and daring to make brave decisions. I am not a spectator when it comes to ministry, but I am sad to say that I have certainly been acting like one when it comes to art. Of course, there is good reason for this. An overload of classes tends to be an inspiration killer for creative writing. But so often, my gut reaction to life is to spectate instead of create art. To watch the glowing screen instead of putting new ideas, poetry, characters on paper. And yet, as I spectate, I am dissatisfied because there's an inner yearning to create.

I am starting to think that writing is like anything else though (including weight loss, faith, giving up booze, etc.): it's about impossible to do without a supportive community!


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