Art is Hopeful

Arts and TheologyOne of the books I’m currently reading is Makoto Fujimura’s Refractions, a collection of essays reflecting on faith, art and culture. It works as a devotional book with its starting places and illustrations in art. I love it so far. In chapter 8, he writes this:

Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator…[art] is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation.”

Makoto Fujimura - Refractions

Makoto Fujimura – Refractions

The very fact that we imagine something that is not created yet, we reach out to it, to see it become manifest is an act of hope. We don’t know for sure if the thing in our brains will become the thing in reality, but we hope it will. When writing a song, I normally have a specific feel that I can’t quite put to words and I’m straining to work it out in reality- to see the intangible become tangible (at least in some way).

And this creating is not limited to art. We are all little creators, an attribute given by The Creator. With our lives we can create beauty and life (such as being a sacrificial husband or a loving sibling) or we can create chaos and death (such as being an abusive spouse or an arrogant Christian). We all create, sometimes for life, sometimes for death. We are a mix of artist and terrorist.

The Christian’s job is to be creating beauty in this world, seeking God’s will to be reflected here on earth as it is in heaven.

We have a mandate to become artists, using the wreckage of broken beauty in this world. We each have a different brush, a different voice, a different movement, but and we are all united in the hope we have to create. A hope for our own creations, and a hope in the One who made creation.

Reflections From My Root Canal

Earlier this week I had what is called “root canal therapy.” Basically, they drill/file/demolish all the bad parts of a tooth, then drill/file some more, then fill the formerly-bad-but-now-open space with some kind of filling material. It sounds a little nutty because it is. It’s a process that took 2 hours for me (and is still not done yet). So while the dentist was removing pieces of my tooth and the assistant was using that air-sucker thing, I had a good amount of time to think.

There’s a crazy sensation when a doctor takes a drill to a piece of bone in your body. For me, it was fascinating. My whole head responded in reverberations to the swirling drill, and, because the resonation was coming from the bones in my head, it felt like my brain was creating the sound- though I knew the doctor and the assistant both heard the sound, though it might have been slightly different.

So my thinking kept going to how our bodies are created for resonation. It would have been impossible for the dentist to drill into a tooth and not get sound. And I wasn’t even using my vocal cords, it was just a part of how I am made- how we are all made. We are all finely tuned instruments, all with different depths of sounds and timbres. Our Creator has crafted us like a fine handmade guitar, each piece of wood and binding and glue made to exact specifications for creating a rich and unique sound.

So much time has been taken with our instruments, our bodies, and we often overlook it. Especially for myself (being a musician!) it took a visit to the dentist for me to appreciate the depth of how I am created.

So is it weird that I’m thinking of a theology of music and creation while a dentist cranks away at pieces of my tooth? Yeah, probably. But I hope the next time you get root canal therapy or hit yourself on the head or sing or play drums on your chest, you’ll realize that The Maker has created you into a work of art, one that is made to resonate beautiful sounds back to Him.