Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seeing ...

Cast your mind back a few years to the movie, Billy Elliott. One of the most tragic scenes for me, was where Billy's father took the dead mother's piano, and chopped it into firewood. I was so grieved. To me it was not just that Billy had lost one of his last links with his mother, but the fact that life was so hard and survival so difficult, there was no room for art or beauty, only function. The piano was reduced to its basest elements - wood for the fire.

The world needs artists. As the old Apple slogan goes, these are the people who "think different". Artists come in all shapes and sizes: dancers, actors, designers, visual artists, musicians, writers, poets, sculptors ... Artists hear the sound within a sound, see outside the box, create something out of nothing, give vision, form or word to thoughts, feelings and emotions. Artists remind us life is more than existance. They remind us to take the time to live, to experience, to feel, to reflect and see, to dream of what could be that is not yet. Yes, the world needs more artists. Imagine a world without creativity.

Creativity is a wonderful gift. Most children start life with this inherent in them. After all, we are created in the image of the creator God, why wouldn't we be creative also? Sometimes, it is knocked out of children through discouragement. Sometimes, they do not get the opportunity to nurture their creative side. One of the saddest things for me as a teacher is seeing how our children are becoming so busy that they have lost the time to play. Play time is the nursery of creativity. It is where creativity is fed, nurtured and grows. If we do not take time to play, creativity will be stifled.

Often we have preordained ideas of what creativity looks like. We think if we are not an artist or a musician, poet or sculptor, that we are not creative. Many years ago, one of my good friends said to me that he wished he was creative like I was. I replied that I thought he was incredibly creative. He stared at me as if I had lost my mind, so I illustrated my thought with a few examples. He is incredibly skilled at welding and building things. When I was given a very expensive synthesizer (I was a student at the time with very little $$) he and a friend, designed and built a road case and a stand for me. Another time I had rust in my car and needed work on it to pass a warrant. I was living in Auckland and it was going to cost a lot. Brian said to bring it down and he would do it for me. I watched in amazement as he cut out the rust, eyed the hole, picked up some sheet metal and cut it to size, then welded it in place. Creativity for sure! There is no way I could have done any of the above things. Here was someone using his very practical skills, in a very creative way. Don't put creativity in a box! It doesn't belong there!

A visit to a Cirque du Soleil show is the opportunity to see creativity in action. Any time I can catch one of their shows, I do. It is money well spent. They demonstrate creativity operating at its highest levels. Every part of the show is art in action. Props are never just brought on and off, they become part of the show. The lighting, music, costumes and staging is all phenomenal. When I attend a Cirque show, I feel the magic of being a child all over again. I sit there with a sense of wonder and awe (and usually a big smile on my face).

There are moments that I have this same sense with God. These moments NEVER occur in the height of busyness. Sometimes it is when I am just still in his presence. Sometimes, it is when I am at the beach or in the mountains. Sometimes it is when I see someone doing what they were born to do ... sometimes it is a majestic sunset or just the simple design on a flower. We serve a creative God. He is the God that designs endless sets of fingerprints. He is the God that designs one-off, never to be repeated snowflakes. Best of all he is the God that created you and me. To quote my friend Kathy Koch, each one of us is "a unique, one of a kind, unrepeatable, never to be seen again, miracle." Yes, that's right. You. YOU. Jars of Clay sing a great song, with a wonderful line, "see the art in me". Like any good art piece, the artist is reflected in their work. Are people seeing the master artist in you?