My friend, colleague, and pastor Sam of MCC Toronto asked me to submit something for a prayer service about the Orlando Pulse mass shooting. After turning her request over for many hours, and admitting that I didn’t feel adequate, this is what bubbled up over about a fifteen-minute period, this early morning, well after midnight.
Where are the words?
in some eyes and hearts
less than the image and likeness of God,
less than fully human?
Where are the words?
Where are the best words to express, Word of God,
all the love and pain we feel,
all the lost sleep,
all the numbness and anger and tears,
all the memories of when
words from Scripture and the mouths of friends
and family felt like bullets ripping through us?
Where are the words?
Where are the strong words to shout, Giver of Life,
that we still hope in you,
that we will choose to forgive,
that we will not stop working for your justice
until every human being knows the flame of your love
over their heads,
until the principalities of homophobia and transphobia and racism and religious xenophobia
know their defeat,
until the idolatry of “the right to bear arms” is smashed
in favour of the Divine image in every life, the flourishing of our communities and peoples?
These feeble words are not enough,
and yet you hear us.
So, in your many names and in the name of Jesus,
we choose, for a moment, your silence of solidarity with us,
and the Love you are always speaking.
Recently, I’ve begun working through The Artist’s Way by creativity teacher Julia Cameron. I find her work very wise; it often presents a perspective with which I already agreed, but has been rendered very practical and in words I would not use.
She recommends three things to sustain the creative life. 1) Morning Pages: Three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness writing that is, in effect, a form of “brain drain.” By clearing the pipes, we make room for an influx of creativity, which ultimately comes from God. 2) Artist Dates: These are solo excursions that give us the opportunity to find child-like delight in our lives by doing simple things that we enjoy. Cameron often uses the phrase “filling the well” to describe what an Artist Date does for our souls. 3) Walking: If Morning Pages and Artist dates are “clearing the pipes” and “filling the well,” Walking allows us, in some sense, to “connect the dots” between creative input and creative output. In our culture, we often ignore our bodies, which often “know” things before our conscious minds can catch up. Blocked ideas and breakthroughs can come just because of a leisurely walk. Cameron claims that Einstein got the breakthrough for one of his key ideas while walking to his job at the patent office.
All of these practices are gentle and simple, but they require good boundaries–in other words, gently and firmly sticking up for myself and my art. I am bumping into how important these are, already. When we decide that being creative and more in touch will God is a priority in our lives, all kinds of crazy-making voices that create drama or urge us to be “realistic and practical” come out of the woodwork. Lent (including Holy Week, which we’re in right now) is already a time of stirring, re-shaping, and even death, but I didn’t expect Cameron’s warning to be so true! As a result, I find I use the Morning Pages to learn to be gentle with myself and others. It is important that I learn to mark out, for God and myself, the space I need in order to do my art (which in my case involves writing above all else).
May all of us find the courage, gentleness, and tenacity to become the creative people God has designed us to be. Julia Cameron puts two statements on her wall: “I am willing to make bad art,” and “You take care of the quality, Lord, and I’ll take care of the quantity.” Walking between those two places is not a bad way to start the journey.
What do you do to sustain your inner artist?
Deliberately, I provoke you-myself-us.
The reason why our societies spend so much time fucking each other,
or talking about how much we’d like to,
is because We have Decided:
There is no God.
The reason we spend so much time fucking each other,
and confessing endlessly that we want to fuck each other
is because We are Grieving:
there are no Erotic Arts, anymore.
We remain unconvinced that sex means anything
(and even procreation is not enough)–too much work
for too little reward.
Even Michel Foucault might be disappointed.