Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Advent Artist

There were artists here several years ago and I wrote about them. I was thinking about them early this morning, sitting in church in the darkness of a predawn hour. What came to mind was how I watched them paint. Each artist did so differently, depending on many things. An artist’s style is unique. Like a voice to sing with, or a fingerprint, or a way of seeing. The slow movement of a brush across stretched canvas or other surface reveals the unique signature of the artist.
I remember watching a woman’s hand as she applied a dab of color to her rendition of our Abbey Church. How she envisioned our church had much to do with the uniqueness of her style. She was expressing something of herself with the form she painted, the colors she used – their tone, texture, the soft placement of the medium on the canvas.
The world teems with self-expression. But the world is a big place. Perhaps it is better to limit myself to the every day.
A bird builds a nest, sensing within her a stirring of life, the tiny start of an egg. The bird has exquisite timing. The nest will be ready when it is time for the bird to settle into it, lay her egg or eggs, then warm the tiny chicks with her body and feed them with care. She will have to travel a distance to find food and yet will know her way back to her young. Some kind of knowing there. A pattern of behavior that is expressed through a synchronization of mating, sensing, building, waiting, birthing, feeding, flying, finding a way back, and, perhaps, repeating the whole routine when what she has raised with care flies away, but with no looking back, no sorrow. That is a kind of knowing, too.
I have read about organisms – are they called microbes? – tiny creatures who live, even thrive, in the hottest and coldest places on earth. Scientists have discovered these and marvel at how life finds a way to adapt to and inhabit places that were previously thought to be absolutely devoid of life.It was taken for granted that the conditions ruled out the possibility of life. But a kind of knowing thought otherwise. And so tiny creatures are at home in the only environment that suits them. They would perish in what we assume to be a normal habitat for life.
Kittens are born blind yet find their way to the warm underside of their mother, where they suckle. Instinct kicks in and the earliest hunger is satisfied, even before the little kittens can see. A kind of knowing moves them to a source of food that will be good for them. And the mother will hide them to keep them out of harm’s way and, later, will teach them to hunt and fend for themselves. I have seen this here at the monastery. I know I am learning something from a different but sure kind of knowing. A kind of knowing that guides the blind, keeps the defenseless safe. A knowing that prepares them for a larger world. A knowing very different from mine. A knowing as impressive as human knowing.
My eyes adjust to the darkness in the church and I can find my way in there. I never have to think about the magic of my eyes – they seem to know very well just how far to widen or narrow their lens-like retinas, allowing for just the right filtering of light. I do not know how my eyes know how to do that. And how does an image travel to the brain? How can flesh and blood see? And, more, how can it be that we see, interpret, remember, associate, and seek to better see and understand all at once – all in a single glance? Something, huh? It happens all the time, even when we dream, and the real meaning of it all escapes me. But there is persistence to it all. Perception, in all its fascinating and connected circuitry, is relentless in its capacity, its seeming need to render experience graspable, intelligible. As if experience, the world itself, has a mind, even a heart, and wants to be known. It “all” beckons and we are obviously curious. In fact, in seems that we have no choice in the matter. An infant looks about with a curiosity. A dying man hopes that his curiosity will not die with him.
Someone knows us.
We come from that someone.
My mom and dad are gone, but something of them lives in me. I am the living expression of their love. The man and woman whose flesh and blood and spirit are truly one in me and who are inseparable in my being. I do not think about it all that much. But I did think about this morning, very early, for Christmas is nearing and I miss them. I wonder how and where they are, and what kind of knowing they “have” and share. Are they more deeply existent in the living design that is the “knowing” of all creatures, creatures great and small?
I do not know. I like to think so. I like to think that God has drawn them more fully into the mystery of life.
Is hope a way of seeing? Is hope a hint of where our knowing comes from and where it should lead? Is the purest hope that which hopes for the unseen – and all the love and beauty that lives there, somehow beyond death? I hope so.
Maybe you are an artist, you from whom we came. No, you must be that, an artist. We live in your design and you are yet at work in us, all about us, from the tiniest of living things to the farthest reaches of the universe.
I have read that we are made, in part, from carbon, a carbon that only comes from star-matter.
A burst or a bang from which the universe was born. A knowing arrived with it. A design was your dream, from the very beginning.
I hope to see my mom and dad again. I hope that is part of your design, you who live before time and in time and of time and beyond time, all at once and in me, along with a man and woman who fell in love and poured their very selves into me. I know that is true – I felt it this morning, in the dark, a dark place in which my eyes knew how to see. Yet a place in which I can easily lose my way.
Christmas nears. A beckoning to see with the heart. A promise to satisfy the hunger of the heart. A fidelity to the eternal destiny of all things. A very telling movement of the hand of God on the canvas of life, the most wondrous movement of divine artistry, a signature in the birth of a baby. A Child for whom we wait. A kind of knowing, there. I feel it in me, a movement in my blindness toward the Source of Life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So nice, James. Thanks for the questions.

A friend