Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Reading

Process as Transformation

Detail: Mary Magdelaine & Christ / Sinai Monastery / 7th Cent.

Detail: Mary Magdelaine & Christ / Sinai Monastery / 7th Cent.

     NOTE: I apologize for the lack of open space between the paragraphs.  WordPress is having problems just now.  Thank you for your patience.

     The new goals I’ve set for myself this year is to [try and] read a new book every two-weeks; so far so good. The latest I’ve finished is by musician, worship leader, and author Manuel Luz called Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist (2009/Moody). This is not a book review but more of a sharing of a couple of his most nourishing points.

     I love how Luz reminds us that the life of an artist, and the daily act of art-making has a transformative effect on those artists for whom Christ is Lord. “In my own life, I have found that my music – and art in general – is a means by which I am drawn more closely in communion with God. God has formed me through the discipline of music. The discipline of worshiping while rehearsing… the discipline of songwriting and song journaling.

     “And this should make sense if one understands that to grow as artists is, in part, to increase in our Christlikeness.” Luz / 127

     To my mind this is another example of the purest essence of the convergence of faith and art; it not only affects those who engage the work but the artist as well. I love the Presence of God wherever I am. I love knowing that He’s not far off, up on heaven listening at a distance, but through His Spirit is literally with me 24/7. I love our discoveries in the process of making art, at whatever stage of the work. I love those discoveries which enrich my relationship with my Lord God.

     I don’t usually talk about art work that I’ve not finished, let alone haven’t even begun. A powerful thing happened to me a while back as I was reading Matthew 9:20 / Mark 5:25, the story of Mary Magdalene being healed by merely touching the edge of Christ’s shawl.

     There I was in the middle of my daily Bible readings and up came this story, with it’s beginning, its middle, and end; complete in every way. Heck, it even fits the 5-sentence story structure of a good Western world tale.

     So, there I was reading and as I savored each word, something built up in my heart. Here was a woman who’d made mistakes (don’t we all) and who was seeking full healing. Mark’s verse 27 tells us that she’d heard Jesus was near. She resolved to merely touch His shawl or tunic – that’s all, just touch his clothing. That’s all, the merest gesture, and she knew that she’d be healed. To my mind she got more than she hoped for. She got salvation, redemption, a whole new life in that single experience. What a powerful story. Then I heard it, I call it the silver bell. “Dinggggggg”; there it was, that resonance of recognition that this was an important story. My heart quickened, as itProcess as Transformation always does when that “bell” rings. I know I’m in the Presence of His Spirit and being offered a gift if I’ll just listen and receive it.

     As I began journaling about the encounter, something I often do in preparation of making a work, God was right there, revealing one level of meaning after another; a simple story, a single, brief encounter but layer upon layer of relational / spiritual significance. The practice of even preparing to make art was transforming me. I was growing and being nourished in the experience. I was savoring the Divine Presence of the living God whom I follow and serve. I was enjoying a deeply personal, intimate, private relationship with Him.

     It’s this self same experience Manuel Luz was on about in his book. Art making, for the artist who is a follower of Christ, can (if we’re willing, open, and receptive) have a transformative effect on us – it ought to. Then the work itself goes on to affect the lives of those who engage it elsewhere, as long as they too are willing, open, and receptive. And I know I’m repeating myself, but I assure you that it’s deliberate repetition – process is an art-maker’s transformative journey. There is no destination, only journey, ever changing, ever growing.

     Amen~

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Beauty Will Save the World: Initial Thoughts

Book - Beauty Will Save the WorldMaybe it’s because I’m a Philomath – I love learning, but I do love a good book. I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction dealing with faith, art, faith & art, and creativity. The latest I’m doing a deep-reading on is Gregory Wolfe’s Beauty Will Save The World.

This culturally engaging, faith-driven, affirmation of creativity has got me by the ear-lobes and I’m so excited that I want to share just a few brief thoughts.

“My own vocation, as I have come to understand it, is to explore the relationship between religion, art, and culture in order to discover how the imagination may ‘redeem the time’.” Gregory Wolfe /pg-2.

Last October as the guest of Dick Staub, Nigel Goodwin, and Jeff Johnson, I attended a special gathering of thoughtful creatives and, like everybody else, was asked to give a 10-minute talk about my art practice; who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going. As I prepared my talk it occurred to me that; “What essentially interests me is the power of art, in all media, to alter the course of culture to the glory of God. I am searching for how art can communicate God’s love to the world without the trappings of mere religion, either to the Body of Christ (His Church) and to the world.” Lew Curtiss / Oct-2012

I was not many pages into Gregory’s book and realized that, here in my hands, lay much good instruction to that very process. This is why I couldn’t wait to write about this book even before finishing it.

“Just as Christians believe that God became man so that He could reach into, and atone for, the pain and isolation of sin, so the artist descends into disorder so that he might discover a redemptive path toward order.” GW / pg-6.

Further; “If art cannot save our souls, it can do much to redeem the time, to give us a true image of ourselves, both in the horror and the boredom to which we can descend, and in the glory which we may, in rare moments, be privileged to glimpse.” GW / pg-8

More and more do I encounter affirmations regarding the very high calling of faith-driven creatives of all media. More and more do I read and am further convinced that faith-driven art is the second voice of the Church (the Body of Christ), right alongside ordained clergy; that faith-driven artists – serious artists – share the same heritage in the tribe of Levi, and that we are sanctified and consecrated as God’s scribes and messengers in this world. More and more urgently – and Gregory emphasizes this in his book – is the need for serious, deeply rooted, faith-driven creatives to get to the work God calls each of us to do within His giftings and missions to each of us.

When I am finished with this first reading, this book will be annotated, highlighted, underlined, tabbed and tagged as it takes its place alongside the other reference works on my Artist’s Bookshelf; Walking On Water / L’Engle; Culturally Savvy Christian / Staub; Purpose Driven Life / Warren; The Artist’s Way / Cameron; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain / Edwards; The Creative Habit / Tharp.


My Faith-Driven Core

Hearth Gathering-Oct/2012I’ve been on some absolutely amazing journeys lately and before I wrote anything, I’ve had to ruminate a bit. I wasn’t sure what to share, and how. I’m so excited that I could have easily come across as a blithering idiot.

Recently I had the privilege of attending an artist’s gathering hosted by author and cultural commentator, Dick Staub. It was a life-transforming weekend. The conversations, structured conversations as Dick called them, were very soul searching. He’d drop a deeply penetrating question out there. We’d all pause and consider it, and then the open, honest, vulnerable sharing would happen.

We were all asked to prepare a 10-minute presentation about ourselves, and the work we were engaged with. Fascinating, the creative stories of the other guests.

My having to put together something interesting was a real soul-searching experience. I mean, I’d much rather listen to what everyone else had to say. What was I going to say?; “Hi, I’m Lew Curtiss and I work in Collage/Mixed-Media.”

What happened though was a wonderful journey of self-discovery. I began the same way I approach my art-making, I’ve learned not to ask what the piece is going to look like, or “be”. I just dive in knowing that there’s no such thing as a “mistake”. What emerged was a God directed journey into where I’ve come from, what I’m currently doing, and where He’s leading me.

In this journey, I ended up connecting a lot of really important dots having to do with the creative path I’ve followed these last 5 or 6 years. I found myself revisiting my core beliefs that make up the Christian faith driving my art. Just a few; there’s a vast difference between faith and mere religion; in the eyes of the world, faith-driven artists are “too religious”, and in the eyes of many (maybe most) churches, faith-driven artists are at best, irrelevant.

I was also reminded of 1Peter 2:9 which says,

“…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (ESV)

What essentially interests me most is the power of faith-driven art to alter the course of culture to the glory of God. How does the way I live, what I make and share with others make any difference for the cause of Christ?

I’ve long held that Faith-Driven artists are of the tribe of Levi, just as ordained clergy are; that Faith-Driven artists are sanctified and consecrated being set aside by God for a very high calling (which we need to take seriously). I believe that Faith-Driven artists are God’s second voice of the Church (the Body of Christ) right alongside ordained clergy.

Through all of this I was being re-grounded through, the discussions, the conversations, and now in my reading. Everywhere I am finding affirmations and confirmations in and through many voices other than my own. It’s an awesome gift from the Lord, confirming what to do and which way to go!

This same connecting of dots of my core driving beliefs has also lead me back to Dick Staub’s book, The Culturally Savvy Christian. This is my third reading, and taken after the gathering with my fellow thoughtful creatives, it’s just what I need. I’ve got my yellow highlighter and my red-ink pen out. I’m marking up the book, making notes, tagging the pages, and reabsorbing yet again.

Every time I reread one of my core, foundational books I get something new out of it. At the very least I am reminded of something important that I’d laid aside. My on-desk library features the writings of Armstrong, Cameron, Edwards, Foster, Keller, L’Engle, Lewis, Staub, Tharp, Warren, and Yancey. The top of the list, of course, is my Dad’s large print NIV Bible. I’m glad for the large print by the way, I am almost 60 you know.

I’m so excited, and so motivated, God has lead me into my third body of work, but more on that later. And of course, I’ll try really hard not to stay away so long.

Thanks for listening.


Faith & Art: How and For Whom?

OddEgg02The most challenging question I encounter from other artists of faith is how. How do I live out both my faith and my art? What does that look like? What does that feel like? At this point, I can offer you this hard won hint: It should look and feel completely natural, as if we’re designed for it. Because we are.

In my own search for guidance, I’ve read gobs of books, gobs of blogs, and followed the careers and ideas of well-established artists of faith in many media. Two well known artists who come immediately to mind are painter, Mako Fujimura and author, Madeleine L’Engle.

Our Biblical Model

However, the very best guidance I’ve yet found is from God’s Word in the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). It’s taken me years to appreciate this, because it’s application in this context wasn’t obvious to me.

In this brief passage, God provides us with a complete working model for incorporating our faith into every aspect of our lives. Our faith is to be as leaven (yeast) is to bread – an essential ingredient which drives everything (Luke 13: 20-21). Faith is a daily discipline, in continuous development.

Feeling Trapped

I suspect, however, that our question pertains more to the art itself than to the development of faith. In my own experience of faith-driven art-making, I find myself in something of a trap. That trap is having been accused by Christians of being too secular, pagan, or worldly. And of being accused by non-Christians of being preachy, or religious.

He Goes Before Us

Looking at God’s Word however, I find that Christ himself walked this very same road. He didn’t come here to start a religion, or to make us into Christians. He didn’t come here to remove Rome’s dominance from Israel. He came to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17-20) and to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). There’s nothing either political or merely-religious about Christ. He avoided political entanglements (Luke 20:21-25). He railed against the self-centric religious leaders of the day (Matt. 23:13-14), and avoided zealots who sought a new king in Israel (John 28: 18-38). The central road Christ walked was a perfect example of obedient faith in God the Father. The will of God the Father is the entirety of His vision, and, of course, He calls each of us to do the same, to become His disciples.

In short, I don’t make art to please the world, or to satisfy the marketplace with art that is culturally fashionable or politically correct. I don’t make art to please my fellow Christians, nor to satisfy whatever is spiritually in fashion or religiously correct. As He has gifted me, I make art to please God. I make art that is unique, original, and authentic to who and what I am in Christ.

Choose Whom You Shall Serve

So, for me, the question becomes: For whom am I making my art, God or man? Christ warns us, “You cannot serve two Masters…”, (Matt. 6:24). In this context, that particular scripture took on an entire new set of meanings.

INSPIRATIONS-DVDIn a 1997 creativity documentary titled, INSPIRATIONS, musician/artist David Bowie warns against making art to please people. He counsels artists to make art for themselves; art that fulfills their own creative aspirations. He continues by assuring us that our audience will eventually find us if we persist making enough art for a long enough time.

To Glorify Him

Some may well ask then, how do we make art both for ourselves and the glory of God? For me, the answer has two parts.

First, God is my Lord. I obey and follow Him. God has gifted me. I strive to discover, develop, and use my gifts in excellence. I strive to glorify God by becoming all that He has built and birthed me to become. Therefore, I make art (authentic to me) to please Him, not Christians who write me off as “worldly”; not non-Christians who accuse me of being “religious”. I make art (authentic to me) for my Lord God. In fact there is absolutely no other way to glorify God than to allow Him to complete us as He has designed each of us to become (Phil 1:6-11).

Blessed To Be a Blessing

Second, I make art in response to how I’m gifted. That’s what I mean when I say my art is authentic to me. I use my God-given creative voice in every work I produce. That’s the real, genuine, authentic me – not a futile attempt at imitating someone else.

God loves variety.  According to His will, God has gifted each of His faith-driven creatives with a unique voice. Together, we become a bouquet of sights, a symphony of sounds, all speaking the truths He gives each of us to share with the world.

Faith-Driven Art-Making

I’ve also discovered deeper truths in my walk of faith & art. If I “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” I have found, indeed, that all I need is added to me (Matt. 6:33). In other words, before I can make faith-driven art, I need a deep, abiding, faith in God; no faith, no drive.

To develop faith I need a regular prayer-life. I need to study the Word, daily. I need to worship regularly. I need to fellowship regularly, and more than just at church. These are my four power sources of faith. Without them I have nothing to “say”; I am literally disconnected and adrift.

Pursuing Excellence

Second, I must constantly work to discover, develop, and use my creative gifts to God’s glory – whatever that looks like. That means I must commit to a life-long pursuit of excellence, offering God the very best; the first-fruits of my creativity. In this way, God is glorified.

No Excuses, No Apologies

We artists of faith simply need to move past our many critics who seem to believe they have an obligation to tell us what and how to make our personally authentic,  faith-driven art. We need to venture into that deeply-personal place reserved for ourselves and God, and as gifted and guided by Him, we need to create whatever delights Him.

The rest is already taken care of. (Matt. 6: 25-34)


Dreams & Visions: What they are and how to get one.

Clock FaceNo surprise: I’ve found that to develop creative muscle takes time, and that this process is at the very heart of life for the faith-driven creative. Actively investing in our creativity, produces abundant, meaningful, purpose-driven inspiration. This walk with God, like any cherished relationship, is not a six-step quick-fix. We won’t find any simple bandages here. Change and deep spiritual growth is an on-going process wherein we literally reap what we sow. So, let’s dig in!

A Dream

Simply put: a dream is: Something you want to have, something you want to do, something you want to become, someplace you want to go. The question is, what is the source of your dreams?

For the faith-driven artist, the source of dreams is God. He’s begun a good work in each of us and will faithfully see it to completion, if we cooperate. Our art is an expression of the deeply personal journey of fulfilling our dreams; our life-walk. It’s our way of sharing who we are, where we’re at, and what’s important to us. Our art is God speaking through us to the world.

A Vision

Different from a dream, a vision is long-term, big picture stuff. Visions are fulfilled through the completion of many dreams. Dreams are smaller, short-term projects. Visions are long-term, life changing strategies often taking an entire life-time to realize.

A Purpose-Built Relationship

As I wrote in Creative Self-Motivation: Making Art Anyway;

Without a strong pull at our heart-strings we’re adding nothing to the symphony of humanity and just waiting to expire, and that’s not God’s plan for us at all. Scripture reminds us that God has plans for our lives, not to harm us, but to prosper us. [Jer.29:11]”

Discovering and developing our God-given dream(s) is to find our creative voice. We’re looking for what’s meaningful to us so we have something to say. This quest takes some real soul-searching.

The Purpose Driven Life / Rick WarrenRick Warren / The Purpose Driven Life

The search begins with knowing who we are and why we’re here. I can’t think of a better tool than Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. This is the only God-driven “self-help” book I’ve ever found. Warren reminds us that we’re here for God’s glory, not ours, and he helps us get this often misunderstood concept into a healthy perspective. Without this God focused, Christocentric perspective, nothing in life (or art) will make any sense.

Get a copy, take notes, highlight it, and do the exercises. A book is a tool, so mark it up and use it. Absorb what’s written. I encourage you to revisit and rewrite the exercises once a year to fine-tune and update where you find God leading your faith-driven creative life.

Culturally Savvy Christian / Dick StaubDick Staub / Culturally Savvy Christian

If we’re going to be a creative voice making a difference, we also need to know the cultural context in which we live.

Dick Staub is a cultural watch-dog. In his book, Culturally Savvy Christian, he deftly untangles the cultural muddle we currently find ourselves in. Especially meaningful to artists are his themes of our being both image bearers, and culture makers. Staub is so committed to the power of the arts that he focuses an entire chapter on precisely how faith-driven artists can make a positive, powerful, counter-cultural difference.

Walking On Water / Madeleine L'EngleMadeleine L’Engle / Walking on Water

A huge challenge for most faith-driven artists is how to reconcile their faith and their art: What does that look like, and how does it work?

Madeleine L’Engle was a deeply grounded Christian, with unquenchable interests in art, faith, and science. Encouraged by her friend, poet Luci Shaw, L’Engle articulates what so many artists of faith could not for themselves; that to make art is to worship the Creator. Her book Walking On Water literally saved my life.

If you’re absolutely serious about making meaning-filled, purposeful art of faith, I urge you to read these three books. Tag them, label them, and turn them into life-long reference tools to which you can quickly turn at a moment’s need. They will posture your spirit as a faith-driven artist working for God’s glory.

A Process

To nurture and nourish our creativity, we need process. Now that we understand for whom we work, let’s dig into how we can become inspired and stay that way. Read on!

The Artist's Way / Julia CameronJulia Cameron / The Artist’s Way

Writer, artist, playwright, Julia Cameron has given us tools to prime our creative pumps and keep us constantly inspired. The Artist’s Way was born from Cameron’s own crisis of creative recovery. As a solid, doable method, she offers us a set of fundamental habits to nurture and nourish the gathering process we artists must engage in daily.

Through this book, my journaling (the first of her creative habits) has gone far beyond a mere diary. It has become, literally, conversation with God. I write – in stream of consciousness – about whatever comes to mind and I do so almost every single day. In these personal pages, I grapple with frustration and celebrate joy. I pray. God and I connect, and I intercept His gifts of meaning-filled creativity. You should get a copy. Mark it up. Do the exercises. I think you’ll find your own fount of creativity over-flowing.

The Creative Habit / Twyla TharpTwyla Tharp / The Creative Habit

To understand the need for and develop your own creativity habits, read The Creative Habit: Learn it And Use it For Life by Choreographer Twyla Tharp. Like Cameron, Tharp is a no nonsense writer. Her main theme is about what she calls rituals. We all have rituals; habitual processes we follow everyday without question. Yours differ from mine, but to the health and well-being of our creativity, they’re essential. Tharp will lead you to develop and use your own creativity rituals.

Creative habits are what I find so harmonious about the writings of Cameron and Tharp. And both are speaking from their own hands-on, life affirming experiences. They’re the real deal, which is why I respect them and their advice.

Results

Now you know where faith-driven artists get their dreams and how to nurture and nourish yours. I’m not a PhD in anything. I’m a working artist who, like you, struggles to find meaning and purpose every day. You can probably tell that I read – a lot! I take copious notes. I tag and label books I own. They become tools which I revisit for further growth or as a pick-me-up, reminding me what I’m doing and why. I take what I learn from God, through these authors, and I put it into fruitful action – you can too!

It’s my firm conviction that the more I show God how willing I am live this creative life He has planned for me, the more He will enable me to handle all that He gives me to do. [Matt. 25:14-30]

Book, Pen, & GlassesYour Feedback

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what books you read which inspire your faith-driven creativity. What practices, habits, or rituals do you use to prepare to make art? How do you use what you’ve learned?


How I Manage My Three R’s

BRONX-001C-TNY - Copyright 2010 - Lewis M. Curtiss jrIt’s nothing new, we’re all buried in information of sorts.  I’m up to my armpits in my own set of three-r’s; reading, writin’, and research.  The internet is my haven for wading through mountains of information and knowledge in search of  wisdom and meaning for my arts practice.

Current Projects

Currently, I’ve got three book concepts I’m researching to see if they’re worth doing, and what approach I want to take.  I’ve got three art-making projects in the works.  I’m swimming through books and blogs about minimalism, simplicity, culture, and faith & art.  I’m learning to manage how I gather so it serves my process and I don’t drown.

Finding My Own System

Among the many blogs I read are several which offer good advice about how to “manage” these often divergent resources.  Some of the advice works for me and much does not.  I’m a gleaner, and a searcher.  I gather tips and tidbits which actually work for me and discard the rest. I’m not one of those who thinks, “Oh maybe, someday it’ll come in handy.”  No, it’s either valuable now or it’s gone.

I used to force myself to conform to the “systems” of popular organizational gurus until I realized that unless it helps me make meaning, I’m not going to bother.  That doesn’t mean they’re offering bad advice, it’s just not good advice for me.  I mean, you’ve got to love on yourself a little bit, get real, and do for yourself what actually works.

Info-Hoarding

Like many philomaths (major love of learning) I’m an information hoarder.   I go searching for one thing, and end up sideways looking at something related to the original, but definitely not the original. I get it from my dear Grandmother who raised me to enjoy (and I really do) trawling through dictionaries and encyclodepiae.  I’d begin with one word, and while reading the definition, if there was another word  I didn’t understand, I’d go look that up too.  Soon I had a growing relational chain of thought(s).  It taught me nuance.

Realizing that I need to get back on track, I now “file” the blog/website URL in my “favorites”.  Now, I’m not going to give you a precise count, but I’d guess I’ve got some two-hundred website/blog URLs in dozens of folders because I don’t need a cloud, I need to actually find meaningful resources.

I house-clean about every two or three months.  I may use something in a folder and see the loads of other “favorites” in there.  I go through each and in a flash, without thinking about it, I look at the website homepage and make an immediate decision – keep it or ditch it.  Most I ditch because I don’t really need then anymore.  Their project is done, and I’ve moved on.

God Bless Blog Aggregates

The same goes for blogs, and I read (using Google Reader) a load of blogs.  I’ve become really picky about their quality too.  When I began reading blogs regularly, I created a folder, one for each day of the week, and browsed each of them on their day.  Then I learned about aggregate readers and how they’ll show you what’s new and what’s not.  It saves me going through each and every blog just to see if there’s anything new.  It also shows me when a blog’s gone dead (no new posts for weeks/months) – bye-bye!

Eventually, I had built up a list of about 80-blogs.  If they were highlighted by the reader, I’d browse them for new material.  If they were not, if they didn’t have something new, I’d skip them.  That worked fine right up until I got to this full-on list and the the daily “reading” was two or three-hundred new posts.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got other things to do.  I need to move on.

So, to use the oft abused and misused word, I “evolved” to a simpler system.  First, I renewed the folder per day discipline, and though I am tempted to “peek” at say, Wednesday with its one-hundred new posts (LifeHacker is excellent, but they post a bundle of new stuff each day), I don’t look.  I restrain my self and I really, actually read the new posts from that day’s blog folder.  Instead of merely glancing and feeling like I must move on, I actually get something out of it.

My Digital File Cabinets

I’m the same way with “notes” (my current favorite clipper is EverNote).  Today, my file cabinets are digital and they hold gigabytes of stuff.  I gather, and pile, and accumulate until eventually the original idea hiding in there reveals itself and I can make meaning.  Like most creatives, I gather, incubate, and create, giving birth, as it were, to something meaningful and new.  And the only way that process continues is if I keep tweaking how I manage my three-r’s.

Leave a Comment: I’d love to hear from you.

What’s your system for remaining sane in the sea of creative influences?  What creative sorting or piling do you use?  What does your creativity demand, and how do you fulfill that need?


Simplicity, My Life-Aesthetic

Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J Foster

Suggested Reading

If I could be said to have an aesthetic for life, simplicity would be the driving core value. I agree with DaVinci; “Simplicity is the epitome of sophistication.” These days we worship sophistication, believing that the more complex and “rich” something is, the more sophisticated. I’m of the opposite mind. The power in a thing, or an act, is the direct result of it’s lack of complexity; less is more. A single gesture, a word; one note, can speak volumes: simplicity.

For me the development of a life-aesthetic is a journey. As I continue to know myself better, and am truly honest, I live by deliberately chosen values. I live on-purpose. A life aesthetic driven by simplicity squeezes out the unneeded, the unwanted, and the waste, from an existence of mere boredom or frenzy.

Life-Aesthetic

I think of a life-aesthetic as the expression of my core life-values. As an artist, I’m all-ways expressing my values in my work, of course. I’m also an avid observer of people. We all display our values in what we wear, what we drive, how we behave; our values are expressed in all we do and are. You can tell a lot about a person just by watching them. You can deduce even more by listening. Perhaps my people watching is what drives my affection for a good play, a novel, or motion picture.

Self-Reliance

Ideally my simplicity-aesthetic is a celebration of things homemade, handmade, and of a life of self-reliance. Remembering Leonardo again, I’m not suggesting we throw off all that’s good and useful in our technologically sophisticated lives and just go romping around in the country. To me, simplicity means that I throw all that is artificial, superficial, phoney, fake, burdensome, and needless. In short simplicity brings liberty and power to live well.

I’d love someday to have a large garden where I could grow a good deal of the food we’d eat. I’d love to learn to raise chickens, and perhaps a sheep or two. My daughter would make very good use of the wool, and I’d probably be blessed with all the knitware I’d ever need. I’d also love to build a house full of furniture for Emily and me; simple Craftsman Style, or Amish pieces with very little decoration and all handmade by me and my sons.

Gleaning

In my on-going quest for simplicity I find that I’m a gleaner. In my adult life I’ve always been this way. I go out “hunting & gathering” bringing home all sorts of information and things. I pick through it all and recycle as much as possible. That’s how I read, and write, and live. I sort through what seems sensible, meaningful, useful, and simple (powerful) and I discard all the rest.

Art-Making.

Gleaning is how I make my art.  In fact I think most artists glean many sources for inspiration and materials. I look at books, blogs, sketches, artworks.  I read, doodle, and draw. I gather all possible meaning and ruminate on it until it either wears away, or I’ve discovered a meaning-filled nugget or two to share.

I try to write directly and simply, but I’m afraid I’m a wordy person. It has something to do with my being a global-thinker. I tend to live in big, wordy, pictures. I don’t have the verbal incisiveness of Twain, Churchill, or Shakespeare, but I’m working on it.

Faith

In my faith walk this year I’ve learned to let go and to deeply trust. It’s this letting go of control of my life, of mountains of stuff, which has given me more liberty than I’ve ever known and added much to my personal aesthetic of simplicity.

A long time ago God gave me this Psalm, and though I’ve framed it and kept it on the wall near my desk for years, I never lived it as much as I do now.

You are my portion, O Lord I have promised to obey your words.  I have sought your face with all my heart be gracious to me according to your promise.

I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.

At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, O Lord; teach me your decrees.

Psalm 119:57-64

When I think of a life driven by an aesthetic of simplicity, I realize how deeply embedded it is in all I value. My values are completely woven into me, and so I strive daily to live an authentic, transparent life. I strive to live a life blessed with the power of simplicity.