Natalie Grant "More than Anything"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Promethean Failures

Sistine Chapel ceiling: Creation of Adam
I've been reading books on creativity lately. Art and Fear, which discussed the factors which cause artists to give up in despair and to cease working, is the one I finished most recently.  The book impacted me as it as it fleshed out the factors in creativity which make it so particularly demanding upon the artist. The term, "struggling artist" refers not only to the artist's financial status but to their angst of soul the great strain that they undergo in striving to create works of art: the Promethean agony of of the daily gorging of our livers in penance for our audacious attempts to create.

I had gotten new software for my tablet as I mentioned in my past post,  the software multiplies my ability to create infinitely; however with that ability comes much complexity and the need to learn and to understand the new software. I'm not positive I'm up to the task.  What had slowed me in the discovery of this technically demanding factor, was the fact that my brand-new pen was not functioning properly. It was not until today that I was able to combine pieces from my old and new pens to make one functioning pen and thus, was able to dive into the deep waters of the new software.

I have an idea for a painting –in fact  for a series of paintings– and they've been brewing for weeks while I was waiting to obtain the media necessary to create them. Now finally, with nothing in my way, I began to work and discovered that what was in my way still was ignorance of the new software. Not only that but the piece I'm working on now may not lend itself to the discipline of watercolor, which is how I'd initially planned to produce I gave up in disgust and picked up the newest book I'm reading called  Into the Depths of God  by Calvin Miller.

Calvin Miller was, if you ask me, one of the greatest writers of Christian mysticism and discipline that existed in the the last century.  It was with great  sadness that I read today of his death but the truth is that he left us with an amazing  treasury of work, among which is this book. There is a chapter in it entitled "Aesthetics: Enjoying the Beauty of God"and in this chapter Miller describes the task of Christian artist and he bemoans the stunning failure with which we have met met this demand.  We have been relegated to PowerPoint choruses accompanied by more or less talented {usually less} drummers and guitarists.  The art which adjoins my churches walls is: missions posters, some banners, and craft–fully created collages of missionaries and their work. The building itself is singularly lacking in beautyand I would not define anything that exists within its walls as beautiful except the people which come to worship there. Have we forgotten that God is beautiful?? And that he is to be worshiped in the beauty of holiness?  Where has the beauty gone?

Rubens: Descent from the Cross
I confess that I am guilty of the fear that one feels when faced with the idea of creating something beautiful for God.. I feel inept, unworthy, and unskilled when called to the challenge of creating something for God's admiration. But mustn't we try, with every fiber of our being, to do just that? Isn't one of  man's highest callings to create a work which worships God and which places worship in the hearts of men who view the work? Should not our work reflect the Heaven for which we are aimed and headed? In the often quoted paragraph by CS Lewis which ends  with the sentence "We are far too easily satisfied with making pies in the mud..."it may not only refer to man's preoccupation with earthly matters but also with man's lack of aspiration in terms of his art. It does not embarrass us– as it should– to only produce sub-par work and then have the nerve to place it within God's   house or even in our own house where we will view it with eyes made by God!

The stakes are high and it is no wonder that my hand trembles when I pick up that the pen with which to paint.  It is no wonder that would-be artists, hang up their smocks, retire their easels, and take up plumbing instead. And yet is there no higher calling for which we might be delighted to be called? Is it better to be called to preach?  to care for the dying, a la Mother Theresa? No, This is right up there alongside those: the zenith; the summit; the Mount Everest of our calling and it is one that we sadly neglect.  We share in the Creator Heart of God and create works which magnify, extol and please Him.  What could be greater?

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