Sunday, February 26, 2006

Inspiration is Two-Thirds Perspiration

Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)

“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

I’ve heard it said that inspiration is often two-thirds perspiration. I believe it’s true.

One of the problems I see nowadays in area of Christian creative arts is that there is too little perspiration in what’s being “created” in the name of creativity. Most of what I see, read, or hear from these venues is shallow, rooted in a shallow understanding of who God is and also who their fellow man is.

Two reasons for this come readily to mind. First, too many Christians these days are self-absorbed. They look to little else other than themselves and their “needs.” It’s a kind of veiled humanism, with its nakedness covered like a fig leaf, then draped in the proper evangelical language. Second, few are willing to work at it. They want to be inspired, but they don’t want to put in the effort necessary to create the good things God wants.

There was a time when the world’s great art, literature, and music was born in the Church. Nancy and I have seen it over and over again in our visits to Europe. The architecture, the cathedrals, the painting, the music, the great works of literature born there were expressions of two things – man’s sense of God’s presence and his awareness of his neighbor.

I gave thought to these things this morning as I read the following words from Frederick Buechner:

“Literature, painting, music – the most basic lesson that art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things.”

“Is it too much to say that Stop, Look, and Listen is also the most basic lesson that the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us? Listen to the cry of the ancient prophets of Israel. Listen to social injustice, says Amos; to the head-in-the-sand religiosity, says Jeremiah; to international treacheries and power-plays, says Isaiah; because it is precisely through them that God speaks his word of judgment and command.”

“And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

“In a letter to a friend Emily Dickinson wrote that “Consider the lilies of the field” was the only commandment she never broke. She could have done a lot worse. Consider the lilies is the sine qua non of art and religion both.”

The crux of our modern problem is that we’re so preoccupied with ourselves that we very rarely see beyond the confines of our own wants or needs. The world beyond ourselves is very big indeed. God wants the Christian community to be a wellspring, society’s artists and creators, people who will risk losing themselves as they immerse themselves fully in the work of God. That work, which requires more perspiration than inspiration, is a full time occupation, not a preoccupation with self.

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James Fletcher Baxter said...

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.


So, what does humanistic socialism have to offer 'the masses,' instead?
We know: Equality of poverty, and liberal regression ala 'Peanuts' Carter, 'Skinnay' Teddy, and 'Kwicky' Kerry.

While I differ with the President on Israel, Borders, and Ports, the thing I like about him most is HE HAS ALL THE RIGHT ENEMIES! All.

Semper Fidelis

dog1net said...

Aside from being self-absorbed, there also seems to be a real lack of conviction today, thus many people are not only lacking creatively, but rationally as well. Case in point are the poor arguments given as to why Dubai should not be allowed to operate our ports.

Randy S Furco said...

Hi Phil I enjoyed you blog.

I listened to a sermon this weekend and the pastor touched on this same thought.

We as Gods children should be showing the world His excellence in all things.

God Bless.

Dr.John said...

Write on brother. I would write more but my time is valuable. I can use it to make more money so I can get more things. But I still think your right.

violet said...

Interesting post, Phil. From my pov, a few examples of those 'shallow' creative efforts that you decry would have been helpful for me to know exactly what you're talking about here.

violet said...

Phil, thanks for answering this on my blog. Now I understand better where you're coming from.

May I suggest some offerings you might find more satisfying. Books by Dale Cramer, for example, are not only a delight to read but insightful: (Sutter's Cross, Bad Ground and Levi's Will. Another book you might enjoy is River Rising by Athol Dickson.

For links to my reviews of these, here is my blog index Book Review page (just in case something there might interest you.) All that to say, there is good Christian writing in the marketplace. Pity it doesn't hit the bestseller lists (where it belongs more than some that lands up there - in my opinion).

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