(* I urge the reader to note the addendum at the end of this manuscript) It’s going to be important for you, the hearer, the listener to know about a series of events that happened to me that unexpectedly drew my attention to the subject of ‘creativity’.
Here’s what happened… My oldest daughter, Betsy, a high school senior in 2000-2001, came to me asking if I could hang a small shelf on a wall in her bedroom. It was one of those molded shelves that holds small porcelain figures or other brickabrack. I, however, was all clutzy with that sort of stuff. Actually, dreadfully insecure with anything involving a tool. So, I messed with it a bit then had to confess that when her uncle, my brother in law, came to town the next week he could help. When I asked him to mount the shelf he gave me a look...it was one of those sorts of looks that guys give other guys when they don’t know how to do a guy thing. Some of you guys know that look. You have either received it, or given it. He hung it...and I determined I’d never let that happen to me again.
So...I went down to Lowes, and bought a skill saw, a drill, bits, and a few other tools that I convinced myself was needed. I went home waiting for the next request to hang a shelf...never came. However, while looking around on the ‘then new to me internet’ I came across a plan for building an Adirondack chair. There was a list of the tools I’d need...skill saw, drill, bits and a few other tools. So...I buy the plan, print it off (no small thing for me in 2000) buy the wood needed, 7 planks of decking lumber...Lowe’s again (it’s a conspiracy) and begin to follow the directions. Amazing things happen when you follow directions...and what happened was a fully functional adirondack chair. Cuts weren’t straight. The 14 cross pieces for the seat had the look of a drunken sailor. But it was strong, and held me up. What surprised me ...was me...I couldn’t stop staring at it. THERE IT WAS. It didn’t exit before now and THERE IT WAS. It was amazing! I just couldn’t get over it. I had created something. I’d sit in it...get up...sit back down in it...get up and sit in it again. If I had taken a hand full of dirt and breathed on it and a full grown human appeared I could not have been more amazed. And, of course, being a preacher type guy I wondered to myself...is this what God might feel like? At the time that thought seemed heretical so I kept it to myself. But a door had been opened and I went through it.
Over the years my skills with tools and craftsmanship has deepened. My thoughts on God, questions about God and uncertainty about God have become deeper too. But I still wonder, if in that moment when we, as humans, create a thing, are we not then as close to what Divine there may be then at any other moment in our lives. I’m not sure if it’s best described as we being closer to the Divine or the Divine that may be in us revealing herself, or himself or itself more clearly...I don’t know. But for Charlie...it grips me and still does. Every time I make a thing I just sit and stare. Last week, my youngest daughter called me. ‘Hey Dad, we have a old door we took off of a closet. Could you build the kids a table for us. Sure darlin’. It was delivered Tuesday.
I have built a couple dozen of those chairs, tables big and small. Some to fit a thin and narrow space, one for my family that was 4.5 feet wide and a touch over 9 feet long made from the heart pine taken from the Confederate Printing Plant in Columbia SC. It’s in one of my daughter’s house today. One of the most beautiful tables I have made, tiger maple and walnut, was with a friend whose family needed a 6 foot long, 3.5 foot wide 30 in high dinning room table that needed to go down a hall 29 inches wide. There is not one pit of metal or screw in it. I still stare at the pictures of that one. Last year I built dining room table that needed to be 3 ft wide 6 feet long and go in my Honda Civic. Play kitchens for a grand daughter, mud kitchens for grandsons, cutting boards, menorahs for my Anne and her daughters, several jewelry boxes for friends. And this act of creating has changed me. It has made me more patient...and, perhaps, this is the divine in me, the divine closer to me, the me closer to the divine. =====================================================================================
Creativity...what a fabulous subject for our consideration. It’s in us from the beginning. 40,000 years ago humans blew red ocher handprints on to cave walls. 340 caves in Spain, and France contain mind blowing art. This art is found from Romania to Africa, to Argentina. From the pyramids to stonehenge. It’s in us.
It seems to have been in us from the beginning of ‘us’. Matthew Fox is a progressive and liberal Episcopal priest. His lectures can be found on line and youtube. I have embedded a link in my manuscript that will be available on line. Some might be interested to seek him out. And he writes in his book “Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet” … We are creators at our very core. Only creating can make us happy, for in creating we tap into the deepest powers of self and universe and the Divine Self. We become co-creators, that is, we create with the other forces of society, universe, and the Godself when we commit to creativity. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002ENBM4E/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMDN3OaUeQU
When I read those words my spirit reconnects with my first experience creating a thing. And it makes me very suspicious...that it might be true.
Fox will go on the state that the human capacity to create also carries with it a danger. Nuclear weapons, self-serving institutions, abilities to strip forests and lands all come from the human capacity to create. Whatever God there might be has been used to justify everything from slavery to the holocaust...I’m preaching to the choir here...but share that with others too.
NOW...For the sake of clarity please permit me to break creativity down into three separate circles. That which is produced from hands...the mentioned. That which is produced from the mind. And that which is produced from the spirit.
I have been talking about a creativity that is produced with hands. Carvers with hammers and chisels and stone or wood setting free men and women, animals and bird, water and tree. The smith at the forge taking molten something and turning it into sweeping figures of bronze, iron or steel. I have held the lithics of 13,000 year old craftsmen, and am amazed at today’s potter, the luthier, the seamstress, glass blower, brickmason and old black women who weave the sweetgrass. Each of these crafts are produced with their hands.
The artist takes paint and brushes and trowels, and host of implements and makes a flat bit of canvas alive. da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet, and on and on and there is an immediate connection with the cave painters of France and Spain. When I think of the flint knappers of an ice age gone I also think of Heppelwhite, Chippendale, Maloof and Krinov. And I'm suspicious that when the paint begins to touch the canvas, when the potter throws the clay, when the shuttle weaves, when the saw is put to the wood, something Divine happens. NOT just the thing being made...but the presence of the Divine that might be in you and in me. The presence of the Divine that might live in this universe, that ‘hovered over the void’ and might have been responsible for this 13 billion year old journey we are all on. And...And….And….I’m suspicious that when the brush is cleaned, the pot is fired, the weaver rests, the last joint glued and the finish cured that something inside you whispers ...yes...and it is good. And that voice might sound like the voice found the the first few verses of Genesis. ======================================================================================
Those who craft with their mind.
These are the musicians, writers and the poets. Fox says anyone who speaks creates. When we speak of musicians names like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Haydn, and others, do we not mention their names like they are gods?
It seems to me that the written word, the spoken word most often makes one weep isn’t it? It’s powerful gentle music that touches our souls. What is it that connects 26 letters (in English) and produces laughter, anger, fear, love, remorse, sorrow, wonder, desire.
Paul, the New Testament writer makes a statement in his letter to the churches in Ephesus. 2:10 ‘We are God’s workmanship’. That word ‘workmanship’ is the greek work ‘poiema’. We get our word Poem from it. And is not poetry craftsmanship?
A dear friend of mine Jason Beck, a photographer, artist and writer who lives in Savannah, in a poem, muses on writing a poem...listen. Monster . To write a poem, you must first learn how to build a house around a moment. It doesn’t have to be a big house, but it should probably have an attic, and a basement, just in case the poem gets out of control and you need some place to hide.
That is craftsmanship! And whatever else Paul missed by his 1st century context I think he was accurate when he suggests the connection between the Divine and the human.
I have also embedded a link to a short video of his work.
We all know the craftsmen of the mind. Tolstoy, Lewis, Tolkien, Milton, Yeats, Shakespeare, Woolfe, Dickens, Poe, Faulkner, Whitman, Frost, Hemingway and on and on and on.
Their minds take their language and penetrate us with all the emotions of the human condition. Sometimes emotions we don’t even know we have.
AND….when you pick up a pen and CREATE a thank you note, when your hand CREATES a letter to child or to a grandparent, OR A CONGRESSMAN OR A SENATOR … when you take your mind and engage another human being with the written word...the Divine that may be in you smiles, the Divine that may be filling this universe smiles, the Divine craftsman that has made you a poem has caused you to write another poem. There is perfection in the act. Smile ===============================================================================-
Creativity produced from your spirit.
May I focus on Justice and Peace? Justice has always needed to be expressed creatively. Whether in the underground railroad of the 1st half of the 1800s, the efforts to garner and maintain voter rights, or Oskar Shindler’s work to save over a thousand Jews.... Or resisting the direction our country is taking that many of us believe is both anti-American and destructive to today’s citizens and the grandchildren of today’s citizens. Creative justice is the presence of the Divine!
I offer as an example the Indivisible movement which many of us are now a part. There is a link in my manuscript to the website.
And your congregation has marching orders for justice and for peace and dignity too. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The principles of your congregation require each of you to connect daily with the creativity of your spirit. The Inner you that lives and breaths.
Have you ever been around someone who, when they interact with you brings you an unexpected sense of peace, of acceptance or kindness? And when they left your presence you may have found yourself wondering ‘what just happened here’. All the barriers, walls and fears that each of us learned a long time ago to put up in the presence of ...PEOPLE began to thin, to become transparent. For a moment you might have felt ...safe.
I will suggest that of all the acts of creativity which is the least tangible but perhaps just as Divine it is the ability each of us has to create peace, to create acceptance, to create a place of kindness right here, right now.
And that ability lays in any man, any woman, willing to search their spirits for that skill….but it is in each of us.
I am discovering, in my own path, the ability and skill of creating moments of peace, kindness and acceptance. It is becoming more and more important to me to create moments of kindness, moments of peace, moments of acceptance.
Friday night Anne and I were wandering through downtown Beaufort looking for a open table to eat. Prom night...sigh. Every restaurant on Bay was slammed. And every wait staff was FRANTIC!!!. We finally drifted into one of our favorites, a waitress (also frantic) assured us a table would be open in a few moments. She’d come over to us several times apologetic, REALLY tense. The last time she came to explain we smiled and said ‘miss, we are not your high maintenance clients of the evening. We are fine right here, it’s ok.’ Her whole body changed immediately. She rested against the bar, said thank you but had to turn back to her work.
The moment lasted only a few seconds. But, perhaps, the Divine filled that space for that moment. Perhaps something sacred and eternal occupied that moment. I, personally, think it did.
Gen 1:22 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good Make a conscious choice to BE PEOPLE OF LIGHT. It will be GOOD!
Now...what will can you do with all this. Take your hands….and go make something. Seriously...go make something. Learn to weave, throw, cut, (please be careful) paint but go and make and sense the Divine that might be coming out from you and or the Divine that may be coming near to you,
Write, speak, engage your mind with a new things. Tomorrow’s great American novel or a handwritten note to a friend or member of your family...and then just look at it.
Make a moment of kindness or peace in a person’s life that is surrounded by darkness, in a world that appears formless and void and KNOW that the spirit of God may be hovering in you.
If you can...when you can...you will never, ever, be the same. “If you let hydrogen gas alone for 13 billion years it will become giraffes, rose bushes and humans.” This is another way of saying that everything has within itself the power of creativity, the power of giving birth, the power of surprising us and presumably itself as well. “
“Wildness is that wellspring of creativity whence comes the instinctive activities that enable all living beings to obtain their food, to find shelter, to bring forth their young: to sing and dance and fly through the air and swim through the depths of the sea. This is the same inner tendency that evokes the insight of the poet, the skill of the artist and the power of the shaman.”
After the Sunday service was concluded one among you came to me and gently observed that all the names I chose to mention in this message were white men or women. I greatly appreciate that kind insight. And while I cannot re-present this message it’s important to me to speak names like Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Richard Wright. And may I mention Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday and Bessie Smith.
As well, I should open the crafts of the mind to include dancers, chefs, teachers, actors and actresses, comedians and photographers. In no way is any list of people, places or things ever exhaustive. Equally it is true that you may be the owner of a unique skill that opens the divine to you and to you alone. Open that skill often, share it with others, and perhaps you may feel the divine in you too.
Thank you for your understanding and support. Charlie Tyler