This past May, I had the honor of participating in a four day conference in Austin, TX that had the title Transforming Culture. It was organized by the awe-inspiring David Taylor and featured wonderful thinkers as keynote speakers like Jeremy Begbie, Eugene Peterson, and Andy Crouch…all of which had me singing the Sesame Street song when I saw my name on the program beside theirs, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”
I was just ego-surfing this morning (because now that we are past the two job searches for Act One, the Gala, the Story Conference and the Mary: Mother of the Christ script, I have nothing to do!!!), and found that some amazingly zealous and purposeful soul has transcribed the main portion of my comments and posted it here.
Here’s a snip:
I love artists. I love creative people. They make me crazy, but they are never boring. And I get bored very easily. I have the sense when I am with artists that I am with people who are living life to the fullest. Even in their despair, it’s gritty and real and passionate.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who are artists and people who are supposed to support them. So, figure out which you are and do it with vigor.
In a study I’ve done on artists geniuses, I’ve learned that when God sends a gift of genius He usually sends at least one person who gets that genius. It’s like Theo with Van Gogh and Susan Gilbert with Emily Dickenson. You can see this over and over. Somebody was given this gift to save this artist for the rest of us. That might be you. I encourage you then to take that vocation seriously.
I think the subtext for this symposium has been that right now in the Church it’s real hip to support the arts. Everybody is pretty much on board with that. The problem is that we aren’t really sure, though, who is an artist in the sense of those we want to support for the general edification of the Body of Christ in the world.
There are some we want to support in that they are artists for their own catharsis. The art that they are doing is for them to be healed. In that sense we are all supposed to be artists. There’s a book called Only the Lover Sings by a philosopher named Joseph Cipher.[NOTE FROM BARB: That's Josef Pieper.] The book makes the case that the modern world is so intrusive that we are losing the ability to see. There’s so much coming at us that we’re losing the ability to see the presence of God in the details. So we have to become artists because art makes us focus on the details. So whether that’s gardening or cooking or whatever it is that we do, everyone has to bring forth beauty somehow. Everyone needs to exercise that creative facility to keep their life vibrant.
But tonight I’m talking about the other sense of artist. I’m talking about the person who’s been called to be prophet and priest for the masses of us. Those who have been given powerful talent from God to edify the Church.
It seems to me that we need help to figure out who’s who, because every pastor is now freaked out that anyone could come up to them and announce, I’m an Artist. Give me money. Fill in the blank — money, time, microphone, whatever it is. How do we know how we’re supposed to respond to that? Before doing that, though, I’m going to lay out a few ideas about the beautiful. This is the terrain of artists — the beautiful. And one way to recognize them is that they dwell in this terrain.
There are a few teeny discrepancies in the text (the 20th Century philosopher is Josef Pieper not Cipher…) but overall, the talk is a good summary of the main conclusion s that my life as a Christian, an artist and a former of artists has given to me up to now. Many thanks to the good blogger at Living Palm.
(Note that the talks from the event are going to be published into a book, and I have already submitted my edited talk for inclusion in the text. I will let you all know when the book is out.)