Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Storytelling, Art and Walking on Water

I just finished this book by Madeline L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. (It was a Christmas present from Susan-thank you Susan.) It has rocked my world. Please forgive the numerous quotes that follow but I just think she has so many incredible things to say. I felt like each page just screamed with reasons validating how important art is for our world and our relationship with God. I'm sure it will take me a lifetime to weave all that I have learned into my work.

But a summary of some of the things that I learned from this book:

*As an artist, my act of service is to the story. I had always thought that my act of service was to the audience but in reading this book I realized I cannot control what the audience thinks of my work and therefore I should make my greatest priority telling the story to the best of my abilities. This also takes enormous pressure off of worrying about the very objective ways people will view my performances.

"Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays but the artist must be obedient to the work whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a child. I believe that each work of art... comes to the artist and says 'Here am I. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.'"

*Art (similar to prayer) requires listening which is a discipline.

"The artist must be obedient to the command of the work, knowing that this involves long hours of research, of throwing out a month's work, of going back to the beginning, or, sometimes scrapping the whole thing. But when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening. And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect."

*The best work occurs when I listen and die to myself.

"To serve a work of art, great or small, is to die, to die to self. If the artist is able to listen to the work, he must get out of the way; or more correctly he must be willing to be got out of the way, to be killed to self in order to become the servant of the work."

“When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work and so he often wrote better than he could write…
“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.”

*Creating art requires not only a leap of faith but also a relinquishment of control.

"The challenge is to let my intellect work for the creative act, not against it. And this means, first of all, that I must have more faith in the work than I have in myself."

"Artist have always been drawn to the wild, wide elements they cannot control or understand. To be an artist means to approach the light and that means to let go our control, to allow our whole selves to be placed with absolute faith in that which is greater than we are. The novel we sit down to write and the one we end up writing may be very different just as the Jesus we grasp and the Jesus who grasps us may also differ."

*This book also reinforced many of the reasons why art, why storytelling is important and God-glorifying. It is a real shame that so many churches today do not recognize the power that lies in story, in myth and in the creative process.

It is one of the great triumphs of Lucifer that he has managed to make Christians believe that a story is a lie, that a myth should be outgrown with puberty, that to act in a play is inconsistent with true religion.”

"Far too often today children are taught, both in school and at home, to equate truth with fact. If we can't understand something and dissect it with our conscious minds, then it isn't true. In our anxiety to limit ourselves to that which we can comprehend definitively we are losing all that is above, beyond, below, through, past, over that small area encompassed by our conscious minds. "

“God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling. It is the calling for all of us, his creatures but it is perhaps more conscious with the artist…”

“The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking that the truth is in us rather than in God…. They help us to know that we are often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like a small child who constantly asks, Why? Why? Why?”

“There is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in the world….Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night, to eat anything without indigestion, to feel no moral qualms, to turn off the television news and make a bologna sandwich after seeing the devastation and death…. But the artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through and must find means of expression.”


Sarah said...

Ahhhh yess! I am always SOOOOO happy when another artist discovers this book--I read it for the first time right out of college, and it too rocked my world. It's one of my favorite books that I own and one of my top 5 favorite books EVER--dog eared and worn with wear for sure...:) I'm so glad to be reminded of these quotes, and I am thrilled that you have been given this book. L'engle has always been one of my favorite authors--for awhile, I had a goal to work my way through all of her books--she was prolific--she's written at least 60 books--including her children's fiction, adult fiction and Scripture commentary, memoir, etc. You should definitely read the Crosswick journals, and adult fiction... Hope all is well in NYC--oh, how I miss it...sigh...enjoy it dear Lauren, enjoy it! :)

donald said...

This is amaaaazing stuff. Wow.

Well, if I'm closer to God in my doubts then in my certainty, me and God must be BFFS!!! For realz.

I love you and you are incredible.

xo laura

ps Susan's photos rock my socks! i had no idea she was a photographer...