Artists get a bad rap. They’re impractical, out-of-touch, self-absorbed, or radical. They rely on beauty instead of cash.
Of course, that’s a stereotype. A bad one but one that has persisted over time in the modern age. When we think of practical people and artists, they’re often on opposite sides of a deep chasm.
Artists are “starving” because there’s a gap between relying on radical notions of beauty & purpose to put food on the table and finding the practical solutions to every day problems. Or is there?
art & faith are not so different
When I studied religion in college, I became obsessed with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pacifist Protestant theologian who worked on a plot to assassinate Hitler for which he was later hung – yes, he’s fascinating. Bonhoeffer had an idea that people used God as a stop-gap:
…how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.
God is an idea that we cling to in order to fill in the blanks of our own understanding.
We don’t need God until we are presented with a reason to need God. When someone we love dies unexpectedly, when we want to get a good grade on a test, when we want to explain the genesis of the universe…
Instead, Bonhoeffer posited that we need to look at the very practical – and often frightening – demands that God places on believers in everyday life.
From this belief, he was able to justify his part in the assassination attempt. Seeing no feasible means of passive resistance, he chose to plot murder instead of remaining silent. Innocent lives deserved swift & decisive action.
Have I lost you yet?
Many [unsuccessful] creative people look upon their greatest strength in much the same way.
We fall back on our creativity as a stop gap.
We make demands on it only when we need it. We make demands on it instead of allowing it to demand action of us. Your creativity deserves more than to be relegated to the hobby room or crafting corner. It is something with practical applications to your daily life.
As artists, it’s easy to draw a strict line between what we have to do and what we are called to do. It’s easy to view responsibilities as negatives, as detractors from a greater vision.
It’s much harder to see the practical as a means to the artistic.
Creativity is not a stop-gap between the your practical & impractical sides. It can’t fill in a whole. No, creativity is the stuff that ties these two things together. It laces through your big ideas and binds those to practical solutions.
Creativity is what allows us to bring the two sides closer together – not bridge the gap.
Just as Bonhoeffer sought to engage God in the everyday, creativity can be engaged in everything we do.
Creativity is a way of being in the world, looking at problems, and nurturing relationships.
Your creativity deserves the adulation of your actions and honor of your thoughts.
Your creativity is not something to be called upon in your deepest struggles or relied upon for answers to woo-woo questions about your “authentic self.”
There is freedom in recognizing the power of creative thinking. Finding the art in the everyday is a very practical way of being in the world.