Re-entry is slow and easy...

Re-entering the groove of ministry: at this stage in life I rarely jump back
into the game and hit the road running. Rather, my re-entry strategy is to gently ease back into the flow of public life and keep my schedule light for a few days. Here are a few semi-related quotes floating around my head that strike me as connected, but we'll have to wait and see, yes?

+ First, from David Brooks in this morning's NY Times, something he calls "The Creative Climate" about where we might find creativity in today's stagnant culture. "Creativity," he writes a la the historic tensions between John Lennon and Paul McCartney (of the Beatles), "rarely flows out of an act of complete originality. It is rarely a virgin birth. It is usually the clash of two value systems or traditions, which, in collision, create a transcendent third thing." He goes on to note that "Shakespeare combined the Greek honor code (thous halt avenge the murder of thy father) with the Christian mercy code(thou shalt not kill) to create Hamlet, Picasso combined the traditions of European art with the traditions of African masks. Saul Bellow combined the strictness of the Jewish conscience with the free-floating go-getter-ness of the American drive for success." 

What really grabbed me, however, was this observation:  "Sometimes creativity happens in pairs - duos like Lennon and McCartney - who bring clashing worldviews but similar tastes. But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within. When you see creative people like that, you see that they don't flee from the contradictions; they embrace dialectics and dualism... the ability to hold two opposing ideas together at the same time."

If they are religious, they seek to live among the secular. If they are intellectual, the go off into the hurly-burly of business and politics. Creative people often want to be strangers in a strange land. They want to live in dissimilar environments to maximize the creative tensions between different parts of themselves... (So) if you are looking for people who are going to be creative in this current climate, I'd look for people who are disillusioned with politics even as they go into it; who are disenchanted with contemporary worship, even as they join the church; who are disgusted by finance even as they work in finance. These people believe in the goals of their systems but detest how they function. They contain the anxious contradictions between
 disillusionment and hope.

+ Second, in the new overview of the life of Joni Mitchell, Joni, Catherine Monk makes the observation that artists are by nature aliens to their culture.  They may love it and ache to shape it, but they not only hear the Spirit's call more clearly, but they respond to it in ways outside the norms of the status quo.  And to emphasize this thought she quotes a stanza from the epitaph for Oscar Wilde:

And alien tears will fill for him / Pity's long-broken urn / For his mourners will be outcast men, / And outcasts always mourn.

What a brilliant insight!  Artistic outcasts and aliens, let me suggest, know how to mourn because they hear, feel and sense the brokenness within and among us. They are not paralyzed by sorrow but embrace lament. That's what the blues is all about - and the blues is the foundation of jazz. Without the capacity and willingness to feel and sing the blues, the outcast becomes a boring and tragic clown. But let her/him tap into the mourning alive within a culture and watch out!

Comments

ddl said…
LOVE THIS POST, esp. the part/quote about creativity! I haven't seen that quote before...great song too...never heard before...I didn't know she had so many allusions in her songs. I am printing this out...Probably, it is deep contemplation that leads to some kind of synthesis of something unseen...which just reminds me how hard it is to get really, really quiet...rather than scattered.
Now-- back to work for me-- I've got a bulletin and bunch of reading to do.
RJ said…
thanks...one of the things Joni Mitchell notes is how dedicated we must be to locking in to this divine creativity within us all. Ok, back to work!

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