Maturity and Distraction and Old Trunks of Memories

So, it seems I’m having quite the succession of spiritual experiences lately.

Yesterday I was putting together a vita for a teaching position I’m applying for, and I was digging back through the list of theatre productions in which I had been involved in college. To say that the list is long would be an understatement…I literally was involved in shows I don’t even remember. But, as I was rummaging through an old trunk full of stuff in order to find the information I needed, I also discovered a ton of stuff I had saved. Some of it I had saved just for its sentimental value, some I had kept to do something with later and had never gotten around to it.

I found some poetry that I had written at that time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I was much more depressed during my college days than I remember. I also found an short story I had written based upon an extremely difficult relationship I found myself involved in during those years. I think that relationship was the source of my depression, and God knows I had the whole “tortured artist” thing happening at that point, but it caused such a flashback that I just sat in the living room floor forever, absorbed in reading those old words. Had Karen not been engrossed in the second Eragon book, I think she would have been concerned.

After reading the vacuum that was in my soul when I penned that poetry, I’m not so sure I was a Believer at the time. There was no redemption in what I wrote, no light at all. I held only despair and darkness. I suppose it fits, because I flirted with such a gothic image during those years that that’s what everyone else thought, anyway.

Well, I suppose my obsession with Edgar Allen Poe probably helped.

But I think I held a much more clear perspective on what God wanted me at some level, because I was in touch with that creativity, for all the angst and despair that came with it. And that, in its truest form, is what I was hard-wired to be, even if I was failing to view it through the lens of Him at the time. I find it ironic that I forsook that creativity for years, fleeing it as unrealistic, focusing on building a career and worrying about retirement instead. I felt that I had been distracted by unimportant things during that period of my life.

Ironically, I find now that I had become distracted by unimportant things when I chose to flee it.

Makoto Fujimura recently said that artists wrestle with both demons and angels. It is our curse, and our blessing. We have to be experience the pain and despair of life in order to write or paint or sing. Certainly I think we have to experience the joy and love of our Creator as well, but, ultimately, both are necessary.

I just find it odd that we can become so distracted. Perhaps its just the process of maturity.

Color and Vision

I was staring at Louise McClary’s Christ Dies this morning in the current issue of Image Journal. It’s an acrylic on paper, almost cartoonish in appearance. Honestly, not the type of art I usually get caught up in (the essay attached to the section describing her style helped). But there’s a lot of red in this piece. A lot of blood. A lot of pain. A lot upon which to meditate.

And for the first time in my life I made sense of a dream almost two years old now.

The dream was vivid, and was the second in a set of disturbing visions. It was at the end of a set of chaotic dreams, none of which I remember, but as I literally ran out of them, I was confronted by a black landscape and an enormous cross. The cross was huge, heavy, violently real. My course of running would have taken me around it, but I couldn’t go around, and as I staggered back (I think I actually fell to the ground) I realized that the cross was drenched in blood. Soaked. Dripping. And I screamed.

I woke up that moment, screaming out loud, swearing in fear. It took forever to get back to sleep.

Periodically over the last two years, I’ve tried to discover a meaning to that dream. I’ve prayed for an answer. I’ve analyzed it psychologically and theologically to no avail. But this morning as I focused on the pain of the Christ depicted on that page, I think I finally understood. I had been trying to run around that cross in my dream, and I couldn’t. It was too large, too imposing. The only way to move on was to go through it. Which means accepting what it is. Getting soaked in that blood as I move through, as I go over. The only other option when confronted with that obstacle is to retreat the other direction, to move backward.

I think that’s a critical picture of this thing we call faith.

“…punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds” (Isaiah 53:5b, HCSB).

I’m not saying I’m doing a good job of moving through, but at least I’m consciously trying not to move backward any longer.

Product Green?

As winter (hopefully) fades away and the first signs of spring (including sunshine and 70-degree weather) has returned to the southeast, I’ve actually been able to find my way outside to take walks and soak up the vitamin D lately. As much as I prefer the coast, I can appreciate the more mountainous area in which Karen and I currently live (the Blue Ridge mountains are visible on the edge of our horizon…personally, that’s still a little too close for me, but they’re cool to look at sometimes). And, as most of you know how depressed I can get in the winter, it’s nice to start seeing some green outside instead of just dead, bare, brown limbs jutting out of tree trunks.

There’s been a controversy lately about a university in Virginia that recently dozed off a hilltop that it owns and placed the school logo all over the top of the hill, so that it’s literally visible from almost anywhere in the city. A lot of people are pretty pissed off at the idea, saying that a lot of trees were cut down for nothing more than advertising (it’s spawned a couple of interesting Facebook groups).

Well, I’m not going to delve into the local controversy here, but I have noticed myself thinking about the environment more lately. Not that I’ve become a tree hugger or anything, but I do think that we do a generally lousy of job of taking care of our environment. Certainly we are in a financial bind in our country because we’re dependent on foreign sources of oil to power our love affair with the automobile. But it just seems to be popping up a lot of late. Yesterday, Dr. Heidi Cullen, host of The Climate Code, did a segment on some of the new hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles that recently debuted at the LA Auto Show, and discussed how amazingly low the environmental by-products of such vehicles are (not to mention the gas mileage made my jaw drop). Perhaps riding the same interest wave, CNN yesterday talked about “geoengineering,” and the wild schemes that some scientists are forumlating to save us from the threat of global warming. And while I’m not ready to become an activist just yet, I do think that we’re facing a problem here.

I have no clever solutions to offer, or snappy banter to throw out about the issue. I just think that God gave us creation for our enjoyment and expects us to be good managers of His property. Yet we seem to want to treat it pretty destructively. So other than the obvious step of buying a hybrid car, which I know isn’t in my budget at the moment, what practical steps are there to try to make a difference in this? If we start doing something about it, then what does it look like?

Let me know what you think.

Moving Around Stuff

I’ve come to wonder if materialism is truly the enemy of creativity?

I guess it’s because I’m hyper-sensitive to ads and nice cars and status symbols and other flagships of our materialized culture as I’m technically unemployed right now…I’ve been thinking about the cool things that I want and can’t justify spending money on at the moment.

Then I think about the projects that I have on the table that I have that insatiable desire to finish writing, and wonder why that can’t be enough.

I remember my artist friend saying to me last weekend, “you don’t need stuff.”

But we’ve created this monster of society that wants to have more, to buy more, and therefore to work more. To slave away, caught in the machine and not having any time to create. And, as Madeleine L’Engle says, we’re not truly alive if we’re not creating, because that’s what God designed all of us to do at some level. And this idea that we don’t “need stuff?” Well, that’s pretty Scriptural when you think about it.

So I wonder if less material cultures produce deeper and better art that America? I think this could be why we see so much shallow garbage produced that people call art. And I think that many of the most profound creators in our country are counter-cultural in the sense that they’re poor.

Poor in a material sense.

In realilty, though, they’re wealthier that we can imagine. That is the wealth I wish I had at the moment.