Walking On Water
Reflections on Faith & Art
All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older. But they start off without self-consciousness as they paint their purple flowers, their anatomically impossible people, their thunderous, sulphurous skies. They don’t worry that they may not be as good as Di Chirico or Bracque; they know intuitively that it is folly to make comparisons, and they go ahead and say what they want to say. What looks like a hat to a grownup may, to the child artist, be an elephant inside a boa constrictor.
So what happens? Why do we lose our wonderful, rackety creativity? What corrupts us?
It is hard to say when childhood ends, but it is always due to the loss of innocence. The child, like Adam and Eve, knows evil by experience as they gaze into the realm of shadows, and as Nietzsche wrote: “if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Our world is dimmed when we step away from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. When Jesus calls us to enter the kingdom of heaven as little children, it is a turning away from the darkness, back into the light in which we were created.
He calls us to remember.
As Madeline L’Engle writes:
Corrupt: another unpopular word; another important one. Its importance first struck me when I was reading Thomas Traherne, one of my favourite seventeenth-century poets and mystics. “Certainly Adam and Eve in Paradise had not more sweete and curious apprehensions of the world than I when I was a child,” he wrote. Everything was new and delightful for him. The rosy glow of sunrise had in it the flaming glory of creation. The stars at night were a living, heavenly dance. He listened to the grass growing, smelled the west wind, tasted the rain, touched the grains of sand on the shore. All his senses, his mind, his heart, were alive and in touch with being. “So that,” Traherne adds sadly, “without much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world, which now I unlearn, and become as it were a little child again, that I may enter into the kingdom of God.”
Pain is a reality we must all face, and L’Engle does not deny this. In fact, she asserts that without pain, we do not grow. Is this true? How has your relationship with God been grown through times of pain? Has pain changed your approach to your art? Do you feel closer to or farther from God during difficult seasons? Have you ever been tempted to draw back from suffering? Do you agree with L’Engle when she says, “The artist cannot hold back; it is impossible, because writing or any other discipline of art, involves participation in suffering”?
JOIN THE DISCUSSION ON FACEBOOK HERE