Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On suffering and art: A dispatch from the other side of the looking glass

Its a widely held belief that great suffering creates great art. I had a friend in high school who was brilliant and creative, had every advantage. But this friend wanted to be an artist, and thought that suffering was necessary for it. So this friend's life became the sort of soap opera that you'd see portrayed on a Lifetime movie, or featured in an episode of The Shift

I thought that was bunk then, and I even more so now that not only have I dedicated most of my adult life to helping those who are suffering, but have spent several months feeling like I had plasma burning paths through large parts of my body.

Here is what I have observed however: While I've lost a great deal of my cognitive abilities and faculties, my creativity has stayed with me, and often provides the only real relief from the onslaught.

I can't speak for any other creative person who is similarly suffering, but for my part, pain has not made me more creative, it has merely taken away my ability to do much else.

Every day I go for a nature walk with Tess (which is a wonderful thing, no small miracle, and the answer to years of prayers) and take pictures or video. The only extent to which pain impairs this is that since I'm often dizzy from it, I can't bend or lie down easily or safely, nor go scrambling around creek banks or rocky outcroppings to get just the right point of view for my photo.

I have taken GIGABYTES of photos and hours of video while this has been going on. The photo in this blog is just one of over a dozen I took this morning of chestnut buds along one of our creeks, and I've been documenting the bud's progress since they first appeared. The place is a very special one for me and Tess... its where a little creek joins a larger one. We spend a lot of time together there.

I rarely have the presence of mind to organize these pix & vid , much less post them... that's more analytical than creative... that has been significantly compromised.

For me, pain has been like an acid bath... its burned away anything not vital or essential. A group I don't necessarily endorse has collected a wide array of
sacred texts which speak to this.

For myself, this text from the first chapter of my namesake's first epistle often comes to mind:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (NASB)

I think of this passage so much because most of the ways I experience the pain is that of some sort of fire... be it plasma, lava, matter and antimatter combining, etc.

Among my close circle of dear hearts who have been such tireless supporters, constantly being the mirrors by which I am bathed in the light of God's love, we more often remark on these texts:

1Co 10: 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, andhe will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.(ESV)

2Co 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Forwhen I am weak, then I am strong.(ESV)

The wry remark made being
"Would that God did not esteem me so highly as to count me worthy and able to bear the blessings of such hardship"

One other remark which bears repeating is one I made the other day in a text message.

"When medicines fail, God does not... the house finch still come to feed outside our window."

You'd be astounded how long it took me to compose this post dear friends... but I've had so much on my heart I wanted to speak about, and since at the moment my dizziness is preventing me from doing much else...

I hope I can issue forth a few more dispatches from the other side of the looking glass, and even more, come around online and see and hear how you all are doing. I so wish my ability to type and read were not so severely attenuated!

Having given voice to what my pain is like yesterday, I tho't it important to give you another glimpse of life on the other side of the looking glass.

Time for tea, the cat's ready...

1 comment:

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