Monday, July 18, 2011

We Are all Poets in the Workplace

She captured my attention with the imaginary house.

For The High Calling’s Monday book discussion, we’re starting to read Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit by poet and writer Luci Shaw. I’ve “met” Shaw through her poetry, like Harvesting Fog: Poems, and then moved a step close when she joined us for a TweetSpeak poetry jam on Twitter two weeks ago.

In Breath for the Bones, she explores artistic creativity and imagination as profoundly influenced, perhaps even directed, by “the spirit and creatorhood of God.” She speaks to “the artistic process from a profoundly God-centered perspective.”

For a Christian, this sounds like a no-brainer. Yet for evangelical Christians, it is actually more of a fairly recent no-brainer, because it has been only in the last three decades or so that evangelicals have come to consider “the arts” – fiction and other writing, poetry, theater, art, music, film – as something that just might possibly be connected to God.

My own introduction to this whole idea of God as the source of human creativity was Flannery O’Connor, and though she was Southern she was also Catholic, so she didn’t “really count.” No, we evangelicals needed one of our own here, and we found one in Francis Schaeffer and his “How Should We Then Live” book and film series in the mid-1970s. (I was actually reading O’Connor about the same time that our church in Houston showed the series on Sunday nights.)

In her introduction, Shaw imagines a house, “a large rambling house – old, with multiple doors and windows at different levels, all opening onto a landscape of fields interrupted by trees, and beyond this rolling hills, and even farther away, the glistening horizon of the ocean.” She describes the house and its diverse community of people, of both sexes, all races, all ages. “Moving among them, talking and working along with them, is an ordinary-looking man; it is the Christ, the One who lends the house its personal warmth, its structure, its creative center, its vision, its reason for being. This is the house of faith.”

This is a book about art, creativity and artistic imagination. What caught my attention was whom she included among the residents – artists and actors and poets and writers, yes, but also the businessperson, the carpenter, the marketing expert, the inventor and the computer programmer.

And I was seized with an idea, an idea of how I’m going to read this book, and how I’m going to participate in the discussion for the next several weeks – by focusing on how art and creativity and imagination can and should flourish in the workplace, as much as they do in novels, poems, plays, paintings, movies and music, and that here, too, they arise from “the Spirit and creatorhood of God.”

In other words, for those of us who live God’s kingdom in offices and cubicles, on trucks and airplanes, standing behind counters at Macy’s and handling insurance claims, we are all, at heart, the artists of God. We are all made in the image of God, and part of that image is the creative, artistic spirit and force.

Consider joining us. I’m reading the book on Kindle (instant gratification!), and it’s easily available from Amazon and other booksellers like Hearts and Minds Books. Laura Boggess is leading the discussion at The High Calling, and she’ll be posting on Mondays with links to other posts in the discussion.

Come help us write a poem.


Cassandra Frear said...

I like your idea! We are His workmanship, we ourselves -- each of us -- are a work of God, therefore a work of art. He is the supreme artist.

Louise Gallagher said...

I have always believed that I don't 'create' nor 'own' words. They come through me. From the collective creativeness to which we are all connected through God -- or however we choose to call Him.

Your invitation sounds enticing...

I really like iBooks -- I'll check if it's there.

L.L. Barkat said...

Great angle. :) I tell you, these days it is so hard for me to disentangle work from play, art from work. It mostly feels one and the same.

Michelle DeRusha@Graceful said...

This is lovely, Glynn, especially that last bit about living out God's kingdom in cubicles and offices. It's important work. Challenging, inspiring important work.

I am intrigued by this book...

Maureen said...

Interesting that you mention Schaeffer. I was just looking at some of his work yesterday and came across a site I'll be sharing in a Saturday Sharing post.

Sam Adoque, whose Book "Origin of Inspiration" I mentioned last week in my Summer Book Bag post, writes that "[t]o be blessed with talent is to be chosen to fulfill your noble duty by developing that talent." Adoque is addressing himself to artists but really that statement is a kind of manifesto for whatever "work" we do.

Adoque also makes clear that "all of us may use our creative minds to make a difference and to leave a lasting legacy. Everyone acquires an advantage from having some kind of map, as well as some ideas...." The work is in discerning and applying the ideas.

Adoque makes another important point about work and fun, that we cannot always live "a strictly disciplined life of nothing but purposeful quest"; we have to also take time to have fun and play (I think of LL here).

I imagine Adoque and Luci Shaw could have a marvelous conversation.

S. Etole said...

Enjoying both this and Laura's review at THC ...

Laura said...

The house got me too, Glynn :). But you know what? When she said that about our realization that all creation belongs in the house of faith, it nearly broke my heart. And I wondered how we have become so skilled at building fences. I love your idea of featuring the art of work. I am so looking forward to these future posts!

monicasharman said...

Never thought of myself as an artist of God when I was in a cubicle. I should have read this years ago. :)
Oh, man. I so wish I had this book.

Patricia said...

Just returned from a vacation and I'm in that season of life where I now need a vacation from my vacation... I would love to join in. The book sounds wonderfully enticing. Thanks for the heads up and invite. I'll go get it tomorrow :)