Friday, August 26, 2011

with artistic excellence

Disclaimer: I hope that in writing this post, I am not justifying myself, but merely sharing the freedom I've come into and the lesson I'm learning...again.

" It is assumed that one will have talents, materials, subjects – perhaps even genius or inspiration or vision. But these are traditionally understood not as personal properties with which one may do as one chooses but as gifts of God or nature that must be honored in use. One does not dare to use these things without the skill to use them well. …To use gifts less than well is to dishonor them and their Giver."
- Wendell Berry, in
“Christianity and the Survival of Creation”

I embarked on our recent retreat (see post below) with many questions for God about my purpose in life. I am interested and passionate about so many things:

- education
- nutrition
- beauty
- hospitality
- deep friendships
- community development
- mentoring
- gardening
- parenting
- teaching
- writing
- and more, I'm sure, but these things are always near the front of my mind.

It is not uncommon for me to try to major on all of these things at once. And I know others who seem to be able to do it. But I've come to realize lately that I might not me one of those amazing, can-do-it-all sorts of people. My garden is barely identifiable this year. I am frustrated with my kids and just about everyone else. The nutrition I was providing for kids was made with at least as much stress as it was with love. The small neighborhood beautification projects I did became ugly again. I had several writing goals I didn't begin to attempt. And my friendships have become rushed, stressful things to maintain instead of rich things to be enjoyed.

The things I want to do are all good things. But too many good things make for a lot of bad things. It means that, though I'm taking on plenty of noble tasks, I'm not doing any of it well. And I hate mediocrity. I think God does, too. I went to the retreat knowing I needed to prioritize.

While we were there, we spent an afternoon at the Cincinnati Art Museum. They have an entire wing showcasing the work of Cincinnati artists. Apparently there was an arts community there in the late 1800's. (Maybe? I'm horrible at remembering dates.) Perhaps it was simply because they lived in such close proximity to me that I found them particularly interesting. Maybe it just made them more relatable. Maybe I just thought them more ordinary for that reason and was all the more impressed with their work.

Regardless, the work done by those artists was wonderful. There was a particular sculpture there that caught my attention as having been done with excellence. (Just about everything there was done with excellence, but this was particularly so.) It was "Eve Hearing the Voice" by Moses J. Ezekiel. The way she is both hiding herself (face, nakedness) and pushing the Voice away is striking. (This image is more striking, but even though it is not pornography -- we are obviously meant to be looking at the woman's soul -- I didn't want to post a female chest on here in case some people didn't want to see it.) This sculpture was slightly larger than myself, appearing a little super-human. I found myself, much like God probably did, looking for her face.

(photo from Quantum Interceptions)