“And so –our creativity is not on God’s level at all. His creativity is unlimited and infinite. Nevertheless we have been created in His image, so we can be, and are made to be, creative. Man has a capacity both for responding and producing, for communicating as well as being inspired. It is important to respond to the art of others, as well as to produce art oneself. It is important to inspire others to be creative as well as to communicate by one’s own creative acts.” – Edith Schaeffer
31 Days of Playing with the Arts was designed to invite and reveal real ways you can play with the arts. How can we use –as Edith Schaeffer calls it –“man’s capacity for creativity.”
By the end of this series, my hope is that each of us would begin to discover an answer to her question. Maybe, just maybe, we each can also discover an art we can play with and enjoy for ourselves and future generations.
Before we can go there, I think it is good to contemplate a few terms. Therefore, the first three days of this series will be given to that end.
What is art?
That is a question we all could discuss and disagree on for a long time; there remain countless opinions and discussions on the matter. Edith Schaeffer in her book ‘Hidden Art’* gives us some questions to help us begin.
“Is art beauty, or depth, or expression? Is art communication calling for response? Is art talent for involving other human beings in what otherwise would remain locked in the mind? Is art something that draws many into the beauty, joy, and vividness of another person’s understanding? Is art something that includes others in the torn struggling of another person’s suffering?”
For a long time, I always thought art existed for me to express myself. I resisted any limits anyone tried to put on me regarding my art. I thought everyone should accept my art because it was a piece of me. Maybe this is true. However, I have to tell you what happened over the last couple years.
When I joined the Circe Apprenticeship in 2011, I began to learn about writing, reading, and teaching. However, I did not count on learning about God, life, relationships, humanity, art, and more.
Art. Yes, I know, but there it was, in my first year, reading Plato’s Gorgias, I read this, long but well worth it, quote.
“Then I will proceed, and ask whether you also agree with me, and whether you think that I spoke the truth when I further said to Gorgias and Polus that cookery in my opinion is only an experience, and not an art at all; and that whereas medicine is an art, and attends to the nature and constitution of the patient and has principles of action and reason in each case, cookery in attending upon pleasure never regards either the nature or reason of that pleasure to which she devotes herself, but goes straight to her end, nor ever considers or calculates anything, but works by experience and routine, and just preserves the recollection of what she has usually done when producing pleasure.” -Plato
Okay, I know that is a bit of a mouthful, and there is more in there than we can discuss here today, but stick with me. Socrates is contrasting two disciplines, medicine and cookery. He is saying that cookery is a form of flattery ultimately interested in gratification, whereas medicine is chiefly interested in the patient’s highest interest. Socrates goes on to explain, in this quote and further along that all art has common characteristics and all flattery as common characteristics.
Art, according to Socrates:
1. Attends to the nature of the recipient
2. Has principles of action and reason
3. Makes provision for the soul’s highest interest
After I had read this, I was faced with a question. At first, I was not sure I was brave enough to ask it, but in the end I did. When I create art, do I create to gratify or heal? Am I interested in responses of flattery or am I considering the soul’s highest interest? I had to be honest; I was practicing a form of flattery in service to myself. I was imposing my internal state and self on the rest of the world rather that inviting others around to participating in something greater. No one is EVER going to be lifted to a higher level of existence by examining my mental and emotional state!
What does this have to do with playing with the arts? I think everything, because art is not just skill on a canvas or masterful hands at a pottery wheel. Art is a purposeful act that flows from a right disposition towards people and reality. Art is anything that attends to the nature of the recipient, has principles of action and reason, and makes provision for the soul’s highest interest. Art embodies something significant that call us to a higher place, out of ourselves.
By recognizing this, we have a key into the world of art. This key unlocks our powers “for responding and producing, for communicating as well as being inspired.” It also casts a vision for what a life of creativity can look like in real life. We are not all Da Vinci, and that is okay, even good. We all however have the capacity for art because we are made in the image of the Creator. We also all have the capacity to consider the nature of things, learn principles of action and reason, and participate in making provision for the so
ul’s highest interest. You my friend –are an artist. You have an invaluable place in the culture we live in and the in the education our children. Creativity can be used in service to this end by you.
Come back tomorrow to hear about Art, Culture, and Paideia or return to the series homepage.
Expanding wisdom, extending grace,