A lot of artists tend to be more spiritual in nature, and I can’t help but think maybe they’re getting something right that the rest of us are missing, even me. Artists tend to dedicate themselves to a particular craft, and work on it for as long as they draw breath. My friend (and Tedx Speaker) Swil Kanim talks about the importance of presence as a musician. He often speaks in tandem with his talent as an accomplished violinist about how all people are given a gift to share, whatever the form that talent takes. I cannot grow a rose to save my life (I’ve tried), nor can I build a house. Yet those skills are no less gifts of talent than what I do. Jesus was a carpenter for goodness’ sake. Do you think it took any less love to build than it does to paint or write?
The real question isn’t “are you an artist?” It’s “how do you use the tools of an artist to connect yourself, to connect with a living God?”
Have you ever watched a group of children play tag? They are completely committed, completely free of any thought but the game. Artists also play games with that purpose: to be present. I started my career in film as an actor. The most common thing I hear is “be present.” The intention being that nothing else matters except for that very moment. It’s uncomfortable, and in the world of Twitter and Vine, it’s incredibly difficult. Artists have to discover ways to block out the noise and concentrate on their craft, find a place in their lives to simply be present in a moment. It is not the same thing as “live for the moment” which is often misunderstood as living in reckless abandon, without regard for consequence. No, no. Living in presence is very intentional, with very purpose driven goals.
So try this. Take the next ninety seconds and just ponder quietly. Let your focus on the screen go fuzzy and be aware of everything around you. Go ahead. I’ll be here.
What did you notice? I noticed that my daughter’s “lap top” is beside me. She left it before naptime when she wanted to work with mama. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the leaves that haven’t been raked yet, like little golden stars on my lawn. I can still smell the delicious simmer from lunch. The air is colder than I expected. These things are not insignificant. There is a story behind each of them.
When I do this exercise in a class that I’m taking or teaching, the purpose is to think not of what task I have yet to accomplish that day, but where I am in that moment. It’s sort of a game to receive and respond. On Sunday service doesn’t your pastor ask for you to bow your head and close your eyes before they give a call, then wait for folks to respond? It’s a call that can take a lot of courage to respond to, a lot of faith. A silly little game of being and committing fully to what is happening right then and there is equally hard. It’s uncomfortable. But its very purpose is to give us time to hear what God wants to say.
For some of us, that’s the only moment in a week we will rest in quiet intention with the Lord.
Don’t shake your head and dismiss yourself. You are an artist, whatever your talent. So take that time to quietly commit to your moment, whether forgotten toys surround you or a pile of paperwork waits on your desk. Let your moment be true. You can be angry or you can be joyful. They are both real; they’re both true. Let yourself rest in that presence of truth and see things new.