The first language of poetry is silence. All art begins with the imposing vacuum of the blank canvas. All music must spring forth from inaudible melodies. Before the truth of nature or the Divine can be grasped, the creative mind must be inclined to the vacant spaces. For one to discover meaning in shafts of sunlight shining through verdant summer leaves in a wooded glen or gain insight while winter wheat tosses about on the gray wind of a November plain, a posture of patient quietude must stands prior to the act of creation. The true poet, the true artist, the true musician must learn in the painful school of experience to sit in the terror of an uncluttered moment, purged from distraction so that from the void a new world of possibility can emerge.
Those gripped with the primordial urge to create are keenly aware that humans are hard-wired for novelty; the newness of an object or an idea that leaps out of the ordinary world taps into the primal capacity for genuine delight and the primeval urge to find meaning in the monotonous vicissitudes of everyday life. However, as with any pleasure decoupled from the transcendent Good, novelty dissolves into mere titillation. This is arrestingly apt in the age of the internet where the impulse toward the dissipative is ubiquitous. The truly new, the reality-altering irruption of the real into the present can be counterfeited by the cacophonous din of instantaneous images, of videos that masquerade as visions, of overworn ideas that bestow upon their adherents cadres of unquestioning support without any real spiritual, intellectual, or moral cost – in this endless stream of dalliance and distraction the native powers of the soul are spent and dissolved. Perhaps more than any epoch in the long history of civilization, humans face the demons of ennui, acedia, and despair with little hope beyond the passing pleasure of saccharine diversion to hold these nihilistic forces at bay.
Yet, in the silence, artists wait until the dark horizon is pregnant with a rumbling storm, possessed with the power of vision in the night, they are conduits for novelty in all its denuded power. Thunder shakes the sky and lightning rips the heavens, here musicians reach out with courage, having been taught to tremble in the void, and then the miracle happens – something new, a sound unheard is sung into the world that so many weary souls weakened by fleeting distraction desperately crave. The poet, whether consciously reliant on Holy Writ or not, hears unspoken speech, the Divine Word suffused in all things and translates these mysterious utterances into language for an otherwise deaf world. This bruised and busted world cannot withstand more than momentary glimpses into the vacant spaces because it, out of sheer terror it rages against the silence, preferring to fritter about hollow fancies than to behold the horror that the void mirrors in broken hearts
Purged of clutter, cacophony, flickering images that glitter for but a moment, the creative mind finds in the disturbing dark space the nexus of all creation and brings forth a singular explosion into the present akin to the one that birthed the universe itself. Something new and wonderful rises out of the matrix of creation that defiantly declares that no moment in time is a determination of past inertia. All creativity is an insistence on the possible. It may draw off of the past but it refuses to be confined by it. This force cracks the future open for the truly new, the shockingly spontaneous that sleeps in the soil made fertile by past discoveries that can be transfigured into something so unprecedented it would appear as if they came from out of nowhere as they break into the blossom in the realm of present experience.
It is the sacred duty of artists and musicians to innovate; imitation is the province of the copyist only capable of rote repetition. The poet is possessed of a prophetic call to invent. While the poet’s tools are as old as the world itself, all alliteration, each multivalent metaphor is much more than commentary on the past, these are the power of creation where the future itself is forged. While it is for God alone to create ex nihilo, it is for creative minds to join with the One and make out of what is what can be and what must become. In an age flooded with flaccid novelties that are nothing more than promissory notes that enable avoiding the pain of the present, the world is desperate for true artists who have trembled in the silence until they tremble no more. These souls have surrendered themselves to this painful metamorphosis so that they can bring into an ossified reality the stone-shattering of the real, which can be discovered again as if it were the very first time. Creative minds have the God-given power to dwell in the dark spaces where all possibility lurks and lift the sun over the horizon as if it were the first sky-splitting dawn that ever broke upon the earth.
4 thoughts on “The Creative Call”
Jedidiah – thank you for this… I want to encourage you – you have a unique and much needed “voice” crying in our current wilderness….
You frame the current “existential threat” (an eviscerated, politically weaponized phrase, no doubt) within our “culture” – a cancerous form of epicurean nihilism entendriled deep into our shallow soul – starved of the transcendent – the Divine. One wonders if there is any hope in this deep, dark night – apart from some eucatastrophe that might awaken us before it is too late…
But poiesis, such as your writing incarnates, are among the few things that give me hope.
I struggle with what part I may play in the prophetic labor of true “Art”.
Life is filled with busy-ness – the gods of materialism must be propitiated…. (how did these idols insinuate themselves into our homes – with the stealth and cunning of that ancient serpent – enslaving us to themselves?)
Am I an artist? I cannot, even at 65, answer this question with any conviction. If anything I feel I am just an impostor – wearing masks to cover the shame of my inadequacy – my nakedness.
Here are examples of my work – but is it not all just kitsch? Am I not just a “copyist”?
A most tragic example of true art born out of darkness and pain can be none other than van Gogh… I imagine few have any glimmer of the real light (and depth of spirituality) that shows though his work – especially his most recognized, Starry Night. But because of his extensive journaling we actually know what inspired him – these richly resonant words from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable – where the Bishop’s nightly rite was to prepare himself for sleep by walking beneath “the great spectacle of the starry firmament”:
“He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring,
comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies,
moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations,
and the invisible splendor of God,
opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown.
In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume,
lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night,
expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation,
he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind;
he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him,
mysterious interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe.”
I learned this from William Havlicek
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Wayne, your encouragement means a great deal to me. Thank you. Sometimes when I write it feels like I am putting messages in a bottle, tossing them into the vast ocean without knowing if they will ever land. So it brings me a great deal of satisfaction when others find encouragement in what I am moved to share.
It is not at all coincidental that you bring up Van Gogh as he was in my mind when I was writing this, along with the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and composer Modest Mussorgsky. I was deeply moved while watching the biopic about Van Gogh, At Eternity’s Gate; one of the things that hit home was that he had the sense that his paintings were for a future generation. And, in a sense, he did paint the future. But where does that come from, could we have Starry Night without the haunting Bedroom at Arles? Yet, we can never look at the night the same because his soul was able to pull the dynamism and movement and enchantment out of the lights that shine in the darkness. Perhaps we knew what the night is, but he opened up for us the possibilities of what the night means.
I did take a look at your work, and you have talents as an artist that I wish I could have. You definitely draw off of the impressionist masters, yet all artists draw from prior sources, and what starts off as ‘copy’ can transform into much more. Your age isn’t an impediment but a gift, what you have is something young artists don’t, namely experience that arises from years of seeing the world. One of the things in your paintings that leaps out to me is how well you use light. Of the paintings you have posted, Nicol Walk is most resonant for me. Something about that bending path where the light is shining just beyond the corner is very powerful. One of the things about landscapes is that they are a portal into the goodness and beauty of nature, and in an age where it is actively being destroyed, these are an insistence that there is something precious about the natural world which would be diminished if it is lost. You have a great eye, I would encourage you to boldly explore your vision the next time you paint and see where it takes you.
As much as I focused on the arts in this little essay, perhaps it is of more importance in the tumultuous times in which we live to learn the art of living. We are all possessed with the power and potential of creativity because we are so endowed by God as his image-bearers. The task is set before us all to bring the subversive power of Goodness, Beauty, and Truth into a world that hungers for these though it knows this not.
Thanks for the links, I will definitely take a look, and again for the encouragement.
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Jedidiah – Thank you for your kind, thoughtful and encouraging words – and for taking time to look at and offer your thoughts about my work. It is genuinely appreciated…
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You painted a rich sensory description of God’s joy that comes when we create with Him. My prayer and mission, which I know you attest to is helping creatives to find and do what they are called to do: reflect God’s glory through whatever gifting they have. I am going to send you a short story called, The Pencil. It’s part of a short story project called, Planting Seeds of Hope. I think you might like the allegory.
On Wed, Apr 29, 2020 at 11:38 PM ST. JUDE’S TAVERN wrote:
> jedidiahpaschall posted: “The first language of poetry is silence. All art > begins with the imposing vacuum of the blank canvas. All music must spring > forth from inaudible melodies. Before the truth of nature or the Divine can > be grasped, the creative mind must be inclined to the v” >
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