Grief needs expression.
It needs to be given voice.
The same is true of our experiences of deep joy.
Whether spoken, written or even sung, it has to come out.
When grief gets stuck, it will begin to eat us up from the inside out.
If joy is left unexpressed it is robbed of it’s potential to bear witness to hope.
However it can be really hard to get the flow moving.
Some things are too painful to speak about.
Some things feel too precious, profound and overwhelming.
Sometimes we simply don’t know how to begin – lacking the eloquence to put words around the muddle of these feelings, so deeply woven into our bodies and minds, it can feel impossible to extricate the specific from the general.
This is why we need our artists to help us.
Blessed with the extraordinary capacity to shape words, music or images, good artists are better practiced at sitting Shiva (a Jewish mourning practice). Leaning in to the difficult emotions and allowing each distinctive flavour to rise to the surface, we refuse to rush through them, simply to avoid pain. Pain is no fun nor is it the goal, but most beauty and self-knowledge has had some root in pain.
The ability to stay the course, often wrestling with it, will enable the lessons discovered by doing this deep work to become something expressible in terms almost everyone can connect with.
Birth is a classic example.
It takes time, effort that is often painful, huge amounts of energy, coupled with the ability to courageously keep going, especially when you are at the end of yourself and afraid that your child will never be successfully delivered. But the result of all this effort and courage is a sense of tender, awe-inspiring wonder, and beautiful new life.
It is worth every second of struggle.
Once you have gone through this, allowed yourself time to reflect upon it, you are able to talk about it in terms with which others will resonate. For those who are coming up behind, you can offer language, rooted in experience, to help prepare their hearts and minds for the epic ahead.
The artist can take this a step further. Using their skill to heighten our more pedestrian language, with brevity, wit and soulfulness, they can paint pictures in our mind and directly connect with our emotions – out of the outpourings of their hearts, we can receive an echo in our own.
“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”Pablo Picasso
All people are artists.
Not all follow their artistry to a professional path, but we all have creativity and artistry in our DNA, by being children of God, made in his image and likeness. The reality is that most of us are simply blocked.
Those who excel on the creative stage, regardless of the size of their platform, are those who have spent time learning to listen, to pay attention and to sit with the pain and joy of their experiences in order to more deeply understand them and connect compassionately with their own hearts and those of others. This takes time, courage and discipline, and the tools used are usually a result of formal or informal study and practice.
Whether a professional performer, wordsmith or visual artist, or whether a mother fully engaged with her family, or someone working in a less obviously creative job, we can all practice being present. We can all pay attention to our inner and outer worlds, learning to lean in to those incredibly painful seasons, cherish the ones so awesome that they take our breath away, and reflect on what they can show us about hope, fear, peace, joy, pain, loneliness and God.
The world NEEDS each of us to remain awake and to practice our craft of receiving, internalising and expressing our discoveries in word, song, visuals and compassionate presence. These have a richness to offer a world full of hurting, sleeping people who are crying out for something deeper. There is a longing in our very essence to connect the finite with the infinite, and the better us artists become at this, the freer others will be to follow suit.
How will you approach the rest of your today, and where will you begin voicing the richness on the inside for the blessing of those on the outside?