Yesterday I attended a conference, “Creation and Re-Creation,” where speakers, stained glass windows, and melodies echoing on towering Gothic ceilings of the church reminded me that beauty and art are not tangential concepts only for people who create art for a living. Everyone with a beating heart is made to enjoy and create Beauty. For hours, I sat under the wisdom of Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish theologian whose accent made me long to hop across the pond again, as well as Andrew Peterson, one of my favorite singer-songwriters who’s among the best of the best lyricists. These were some of the most thought-provoking ideas I jotted down.
Andrew’s advice for artists: don’t tell a story when you’re in the middle of it, but afterward so your audience is not your counselor but can participate in and be blessed by the story. This makes sense. Having the full perspective of a story keeps us from miring in self-focus. What I drew from Andrew’s session: Creative acts are paradoxical. They remind us that we are not alone in the world, but also that self-focus is the enemy of art that serves its audience. In order to create good art, timeless art, we must forget ourselves in a sense. This means loosing the reins, letting the art do the telling.
Ferguson described artists as looking in mirrors. Every artist looks and sees the image of God, but either revels in that reality or tries to tear apart the image and run from his reflection. Andrew used the same metaphor when he addressed the question, “how can we distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art and how can artists pursue goodness and avoid ugliness?” saying we need to ask ourselves whether the art is fixing the broken mirror or grinding it further to dust. Art that expresses the truth about the world, whether brokenness or beauty, is at least worthy of notice.
In spite of feeling totally inadequate after basking all that amazing talent, I wrote another poem…
Distant hum of traffic,
Skeletal tree limbs, drooping
Cloaked in velvet silence.
Clocks whose ticks tear through
Past yawning cat
On sentinel doors and walls—
The sound of time in these mellow hours
Does not burden me as in brisk daytime.
For the amber gleaming spoon resting on the table
And gently creaking rocking chair,
And dusty books sleeping on highest shelves
Don’t demand notice.
But the wonder of the still,
In these still, quiet hours
Invites day-weary dreamers
And breathe in the night
Before dawn chases it away.