on spiritual practices and art-making

Walking Home From Work
Acrylic and Thread on Canvas, 38" x 56"

It's striking how parallel the spiritual practices are to the disciplines required of an artist. Meditation, prayer, simplicity...

Annie Dillard, in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek* says:
"The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But - and this is the point - who gets excited by a mere penny? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty, bought a lifetime of days" (pg 8)

God, with his "generous hand" has given us the gift of creation. One of our roles as both artists and believers is to delight and wonder in this creation. It's an exercise in slowing down, stopping to smell the dogwoods, and finding the pennies. It's an exercise in both contemplation and meditation. And it's a necessary part of our growth as artists and Christians.

It requires patience - there is a discipline to slowing down and taking notice of the small stuff of life. As adults we have largely lost this practice, but spend any time with the Trinity Kids and you'll surely want to recover the fascination (and accompanied delight) in carpet patterns, tiny bugs and cloud formations. Finding pennies will once again make your day, and you'll be brimming over with delight and wonder.

Certainly it requires humility - as an artist, recognizing you are not the source of the inspiration, the good idea, or even the materials themselves. In other words, swallowing your pride and realizing the gifts (these little pennies) were placed in the world by someone bigger than ourselves. We can't take credit for that, no matter how cool we think our art is. It requires, as Dillard puts it, a "healthy poverty" and that requires the discipline of simplicity.

As you walk, or drive through the streets of Atlanta, may your eyes be opened to find pennies everywhere. And may Trinity's arts community in turn, become a community that has cultivated "a healthy poverty and simplicity."

* This book is available through the Trinity arts library. See Jeff Guy to borrow a copy (or choose from many other titles).

1 comment:

  1. Love this Shannon--thanks for your reflections. Cheers,Sasha