Art is a spiritual transaction. Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance – often visible to us, but invisible to those around us. Difficult as it is to remember, it is our work that creates the market, not the market that creates our work. Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it. Sometimes we are called on pilgrimages on its behalf and, like many pilgrims, we doubt the call even as we answer it. But answer we do.
So begins Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. No other spiritual method/program has weaved into the fabric of my soul quite like The Artist’s Way. At the urging a friend, I am revisiting it again beginning today.
Cameron’s use of “pilgrimage” imagery in the first paragraph has to be part of what initially draws me in. I have self-identified as a pilgrim for years. I have come to view life as best seen through the metaphor of pilgrimage – a purposeful wandering into the unknown – a pursuit of that which we know but cannot explain – a daily, active walking toward the next space we will walk into.
Jesus was a pilgrim.
Both literally as an itinerant rabbi and cosmically as God-man on a journey from heaven to earth to a new heaven and new earth. He wasn’t just a pilgrim though.
He was a profoundly stubborn rebel pilgrim.
It was the rebellious, shocking, scandalous nature of his pilgrimage that tilted the world on its axis.
The church is also a pilgrim.
She is on an eschatological journey from Kingdom Come to Kingdom Fully Come.
Perhaps the greatest role of the Artist is to reflect back the reality of our communal pilgrimage. Many people operate as if they are riding on a lazy people-mover at an airport. They aren’t walking, but they are still moving. We easily assume that the journey of life has a pause button. It doesn’t. Your journey continues whether you know you are moving or not.
So while our legs sleepily atrophy while standing on the moving ground beneath our feet, the Artist screams, “You’re moving! Look around! You will never be here again! This very moment you are letting slide by is a pregnant miracle – ready to undergo the pain of birthing beauty, hope and life.”
The filmmaker does this. She holds up a mirror to you disguised as someone else’s story. You look into it and see your own journey. The musician does this. He puts his saxophone to his lips and without a single word reminds you that life is hard, but worth the effort. The novelist does this. As does the painter, the artisan, the editor, the teacher, the dancer, the poet.
If you are an Artist, you are not secondary.
You are necessary.
Humanity cannot be humanity without Artists. We Artists have a calling to explore the fringes of life so that we can translate the not-yet to those who are heading there. We are the scouts. As the throng of pilgrims marches on, we run ahead. We spy on the future and return to speak in parables about what could be if only we would will it to be so.
I believe that a small band of Artists who mature to look past their own self-expression – who see themselves as a community of scouts within a moving pilgrimage – are the catalyst to change the future.
If you self-identify as an Artist, I’d urge you to explore these things with me. Pick up The Artist’s Way if you want and let me know your thoughts.
If you don’t think you are an Artist, then find one to love and support. We are fragile, uncertain, tentative people. There is a dark underbelly to our creativity. We need the others journeying with us to stand with us and for us. We create from our own brokenness. The great irony is that while our art can help other people, it can have the opposite effect on us. So look past our eccentricity, masked confidence and perceived naivety. Tell us we are needed. And help get us ready for our next mission.