Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Press On!

the other day i was feeling weighed down by something. i have forgotten what it was. i was slogging through the evening, feeling oppressed by some trouble or other.

i remember coming to the top of the stairs to my apartment and feeling like i was at the end of my rope. and it was JUST THEN that i realized, i could resist.

it was a great feeling. to realize that right at the moment when it feels like you just can't go on, you can. and in fact, that was the moment that freed me from whatever it was. when i realized i could fight back, even when (or especially when) i felt the most oppressed, THEN i knew i was free.

why? because it was clear that it wasnt me doing it. fighting back wasnt mustering all this strength and pushing laboriously against some scary thing. rather, it was letting go! it was realizing that it is not my job to hold up my life, the world, but rather, it is God's job, and he is doing it!

actually, the first thing i did when i got inside (literally seconds later) was run to my studio and write a really fun song about pushing on through difficulty. whatever the worry was that i had been having, was gone, and in fact, when i let go of the misery, i was given an insight, and a song in its place!

press on friends!

His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day:
I drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.

from hymn 124 from the Christian Science Hymnal

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We Are Surrounded By Nature

in years past i did a lot of hitchhiking and long distance bicycle travel. those adventures took me through all kinds of places - but most notably, into a city, then out into the country, then into another city and so on.

i soon became familiar with the feeling of observing nature wherever i was. if i was in a national park i would observe nature. and if i was in the parking lot of a mcdonald's i would observe nature. it became one of my favorite ideas that the distinction between man-made and nature is a false one. and it caused my vision to become so much more fascinated and compassionate towards people and the things we make.

for example, when we walk into a mall, to some degree we probably do it thinking that we are in a mundane place where things are normal, and run normally. but, when we think of a mall, and the people inside it, as being part of nature, (not a boring man-made place) we are moved to observe much more. and then we can see so much more beauty, brilliance, and soul within it.

the human race is not superimposed over nature. we are part of nature.

this morning i went for a walk down my street and i remembered this thought i have loved for so long. and again my thoughts on my neighborhood were renewed. i saw how light blessed the houses. i watched the folks walking to the subway, the crossing guard in the street as the kids get off the bus at school. this is nature. this is the world moving like the wind in the trees.

i have often felt so freed by this concept because, rather than having to travel (to the mountains, or the beach, or whatever) to enjoy the beauty of nature, i just walk out my front door. a few years ago a friend and i decided to walk from my house, east, until we came to the ocean. it was about a 3 mile walk and we had only a vague idea what we would encounter. so, we found all kinds of neighborhoods, architecture, interactions with people, views, grafitti, parks, ethnicities... the list goes on.

it is a fascinating, beautiful world, and we miss a lot if we think of ourselves as being unnatural. we are natural. we are part of the world.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

digging deep and living for eternity

One of the things that i love the best about being an artist is that i get to think all the time about creating for eternity. it is wonderful to think of. and i can feel my thoughts changing from project to project. sometimes, i am not creating for eternity. in lots of commissioned projects it's like, trying to infuse a sort of commercial idea with as much eternal quality as you can. yet, because the idea itself isn't built for eternity, it can't get all the way there. it isn't speaking to the very best in people because it has an agenda of its own.

but, the best thing, the most humbling and exciting thought, is to think what will i make for all eternity? what will i make simply because it is good? what is the best, most beautiful thing i can do? or maybe even better, what is the thing that most compels me? fascinates me? makes me feel alive?

To quote from a delicious book called "Genius" by Harold Poole, that i am reading right now, "We all know the empty sensation we experience when we read popular fiction and find that there are only names on a page, but no persons. in time, however overpraised, such fictions become period pieces, and finally rub down into rubbish." and later, speaking of Shakespeare (who Poole adores as the greatest literary genius of all time), "The dead genius is more alive than we are, just as Falstaff and Hamlet are considerably livelier than many people i know. vitality is the measure of literary [or any other kind, says i] genius. we read in search of more life..."

among other things, this "genius" that he talks about in the above quotation, is largely about what people can do when they think in terms of the eternal. not "what will pay the bills?" or "what will keep me happy?", but "what is native to eternity?"

Poole makes another wonderful statement. "My subject (genius) is universal, not so much because world-altering geniuses have existed , and will come again, but because genius, however repressed, exists in so many readers" (implying the public).

and he chooses a quote from Emerson which could be exciting to us all,"The world is young: the former great men (sic) call to us affectionately. we too must write Bibles, to unite again the heavens and the earthly world. the secret of genius is to suffer no fiction to exist for us; to realize all that we know."

What do we know of eternity? what do we feel of it? How are we bringing that knowledge and feeling out in our lives, in what we say and do? in what we make? these are the things which, in the doing give us more life, and in the receiving, give others more life.

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."