Karen and I returned from our Thanksgiving trip late Sunday night. Monday morning, I struggled out of bed, and turned on MTV’s Video Wake-Up. Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” was the video that caught my eye. It’s actually an incredibly well-produced video, and, as much as I would like to say that I’m not a fan (her image distresses me), her bluesy crooning at the beginning of the song always hooks me. The video leaves you with the distinct feeling that you have a broken heart. It makes you think about your family.

Considering that I was already thinking about family, it was particularly thought-provoking for me that morning. Thanksgiving was spent with my end of the family this year. It was a little strange for my wife and I to ride around with my parents and for all of us to have the same last name…strange in a good way.

The fact that we slept in my old high-school bedroom was just straight odd, but we won’t go there…

I guess what strikes me is that the importance of family is so much more important now than it was in the past. Don’t get me wrong, it was always important…my family has always been a huge and important part of my life. Of the things that God gives us, I think family is the among the most important. But now it’s more apparent in my life. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I prefer to think that it’s the new chapter that has began in my life.

Before leaving town, we spent time with Karen’s aunt and uncle, and a friend that has no family to speak of, who jokingly calls our aunt and uncle her “pseudo-family.” She is unbelievably thankful for that.

Which leaves me even more thankful for my own (newly extended) family. It also leaves me more aware that showing Christ’s love to those without family is so critical.

Funny how basic truth has a way of coming back into focus.

The Essence of Creativity

Karen and I were having a conversation a couple of days ago about the role of technique in art. It was kind of interesting. Karen is a dancer. She loves to dance, but knew early on that she couldn’t handle doing it professionally because she had seen so much emphasis on technical perfection, and so little emphasis placed on cretivity.

I direct a good deal of drama for my church, and when she slipped in the back while I was rehearsing one night, she expressed how amazed she was at how techinical a drama rehearsal could be (move here on this word, etc.).

So this sparked the debate: when are artists just vehicles for someone else’s creativity, and when are they really creative within themselves?

During my days a musician, I did a lot of classical music (I know, I know…out of character for me, but hey…I was in high school). I couldn’t express any creativity while playing in an orchestra. I was one of an army of people who were serving as vehicles for the creativity of the composer as interpreted by the conductor. Likewise, many dancers are expected to serve as vehicles for the creativity of the choreographer, and actors for the playwright, etc. Certainly, I think the most creative expression in a piece of music, or a play, or a dance, comes from the mind and heart which originate it. But I think we’re doing a severe dis-service in expecting musicians and actors and dancers to focus exlusively on techinique and to function as mindless drones in reproducing someone else’s vision.

When I direct someone else’s script, I refuse to give an actor a line reading. I give them the general parameters I think the character lies within, and the rest is up to their creativity. They should know their character better than I by the time the curtain rises, and so they know how their character would say a given line. That’s the actor’s creativity in this whole process.

Certainly, technique is essential to producing good art. I suppose the only time we really run into this type of debate is in the performing arts…certainly the writer or painter doesn’t seem to struggle with this, because they’re producing what is exlcusively their own. As a writer, though, when I write a play, I must allow for the actor’s creativity to come into play (no pun intended). I’ve never been disappointed in doing so when I’ve seen the finished product take life under the stage lights.

Could this be an indicator of other ways in which we inhibit the essence of creativity in art?

A Different Look

About one day every week, I wear my glasses instead of my contacts. It was my optometrists’ recommendation…it’s healthy to give your eyes a break from having a piece of plastic stuck in them. I joke with my friends that it’s my “intelligent writer look.” I really do look different with glasses.

I never did this until the last six months. I wore my contacts every day. Now, one day a week, I have a different appearance. Kind of symbolic, I think, of the internal conflict with which I’ve wrestled over the last year or so.

Can a Believer come to a point where he doesn’t even want to read the Scriptures? Doesn’t want to go to church? Where he views what he once saw as holy piety as overzealous hypocrites engaged in worthless traditional repetition? I arrived there some time ago. To some degree, I’ve recovered. To some degree, I’m liberated. I’m not burned out on God any longer. I’ve just come to realize that it hasn’t been Him that I’ve really been focused on in Seminary.

I’m taking a course in integrating psychology with theology right now. It’s beyond fascinating, and a relatively recent endeavor of scholarly study. The idea is to go to a middle ground on the continuum between nouthetic naivete and scientific humanism. Both psychology and theology are useful, but both end in nonsensical heresy if you follow either to their obvious conclusions. One observes what we can about man, the other observes what we can about God. Both end up arrogantly drawing conjectures when they run out of observable facts. Therein lies the nonsense.

I just finished reading this great book by Mark R. McMinn, however, that introduces spirituality as it’s own discipline. It’s not a discipline that is indicated by credentials, he argues, but is gained by just spending time with God. Talking to Him. Listening to Him. Not over-engaging, not studying, not analyzing. Reflecting, and meditating on Him. The thrust of the idea here is that theology is focused on analyzing Scripture (seminarians call it “exegesis;” it’s really a horrid practice), while spirituality, McMinn says, is focused on meditating upon Scripture. Huge difference. I’ve come to realize that the past two and a half years have given me a lot of the former, and none of the latter. So I plan to change that with a “discipline” that is oddly lost in the maze of academia: I’m going to enjoy God again. I haven’t done that in far, far too long.

I just finished reading an essay in Image Journal about a man who forsook his evangelical beliefs because he found a greater love in literature. He seems to have come from a overly religious background. I can relate, because I came from the same. I’ve recovered nicely. Or at least I thought that I had. But at least now I have an epiphany to work with. God’s not to be found in the analysis of theology, the same as man’s soul is not to be found in the analysis of psychology. Both are great tools for observation, to glean information about someone. There is an enormous difference, however, in knowing about someone and truly knowing someone.

I know a lot about God. But I don’t know Him nearly as well as I would like. I plan to turn my acquaintance into a lasting friendship.

A new step in the journey, I suppose. I just know that I’m approaching my old Love with a brand new perspective. I suppose you could say, an artistic perspective, instead of a scientific one. I was never really good at the scientific thing anyway.

I think it was Augustine who said that the one who is seeking is not lost. There’s a lot to that.

It’s amazing what you can see through glasses.