Friday, March 30, 2012

"Comes a light, life-charged"

Image by SBT4NOW

"Robert had little patience with these introspective bouts of mine. He never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I understood that what matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of color and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged." -- Patti Smith

I haven't written a blog post in 17 days. I beat myself up about that for 16 days. I fought to carve out time, failed to seize moments, tripped on what to say, blamed the cosmos, and read books instead -- one of which, incidentally, was Patti Smith's Just Kids, one of the most beautiful love letters to kindred spirit-ship I have ever read.

Compartmentalization was not in Smith's vocabulary. Life was art was love was friendship, especially with her best friend and one-time lover Robert Mapplethorpe at her side. Together they explored and experimented as artists, never judging themselves or each other, unless it was to say, "You can do even better." And though Mapplethorpe in particular desired acclaim, it was not his primary reason for creating. Creation compelled them both. It seemed expected of them.

But who exactly was doing the expecting?

The connection between spirituality and creativity has long fascinated me (see part 1, part 2 and part 3 of my earlier series on the topic). In particular, I wonder:

  • Does God engender creativity?
  • Does creativity engender God?
  • How does God define creativity?
  • Is all creativity a gift?
  • When (if ever) is creativity not ok? Do the darker shades come from God as well?
  • What makes creativity most fruitful -- free rein, or limits?
  • Are all of us endowed with creativity?
  • Is creativity a value? A moral? A moral obligation?

I think Smith's last two lines in the quote above are most thought-provoking for me. "To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged." 

Faith, in that you try to do it.
Faith, in that you can do it.
Faith, in that you should do it.
Faith, in that you want to do it -- or even if you don't want to, you do it anyway.

Execution, in that it comes out close to how you envisioned.
Execution, in that it comes out exactly as you envisioned.
Execution, in that it comes out as only you can envision.
Execution, in that it comes out as God envisioned -- or as you envision God.

Light, in that you see it.
Light, in that you follow it.
Light, in that you fulfill it.
Light, in that you live it -- and that it lives through you.

Prayer #204: Charged

You have imposed on me a responsibility as medium. You command me to be a conduit, exhort me to be the exhortation.

But then You take me one step further. I become more than the hand or the brush -- I'm the stroke on the canvas. I'm more than the pen or the ink -- I'm the word on the page. I'm more than the numbers or sketches -- I'm the invention itself.

And then comes the final moment, when I'm both display and viewer, producer and patron, the fruition of Your boundless imagination.

In such a triumphant moment, who is exalting whom? Does it even matter? Perhaps that is the great truth behind Your creation -- that act and actor are synonymous, and we need only recognize the beauty at hand.



  1. Anonymous11:32 AM

    CBS Sunday had a profile on Patti Smith today & highlighted her relationship with Robert Maplethorpe. You should look it up and watch!

  2. Oh, you are 100% correct - spirituality and creativity are indeed connected. Perhaps sprituality is the filter through which creativity flows through. Two forces working in harmony to leave a moving, lasting impression on the reader.

    For example, let's say I'm writing about a life experience. The telling of such a story from my mind to the reader's mind is accomplished with creativity. Creativity allows me to tell that story beautifully while igniting a deep emotion and thus leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

    But before I can write about such an event, I have to experience it. And our witness of such encounters are often filtered through our connection with G-d.

    For example, person A, who is purely scientific, can look at an event and tell us a story of facts and figures. Person B, who has been touched by the Universe, can witness the same event and share a completely different story.

    How can one touch a reader through mere facts? How can an author install a sense of wonder when he / she has not experienced such miracles of life? If I am to make you believe, then I must first believe myself. And that source of feeling, of emotion, of faith in a larger universe is the only power through which creativity can flow from and reach the reader.

    Yes, connected. Or, perhaps even dependent on each other... ;) Great blog, thanks for sharing.

  3. Jenna: Thanks for pointing out the segment, I'll look it up.

    Andrew: Beautiful thought and sentiment! That could be a blog post in itself. You've inspired me to think further about it. Thanks! (And Happy Passover to you and your family.)