I believe in a Creator. A lot of people of various faiths and backgrounds do. I am of the Judeo-Christian tradition in that I believe that humans were created in the image of the Creator.
That doesn’t mean that God has a body with 10 fingers and 10 toes, but this “image” can be thought of as one of make-up or overarching disposition. Specifically, one way we bear God’s image is we yearn to create.
Humans create. We build things. We develop tools. We construct buildings. We write music. We write poetry. We knit. We cook. We run races. We create and give awards. We celebrate accomplishments—creating memorials and days of remembrance.
And this is all well and wonderful. But you will notice a subtle change when actually examining artists, musicians and artisans as they create. Human creators, when speaking about their work, are often tortured souls. There is a tension and sense of sacrifice when an artist gives birth to a creation—and even that analogy—giving birth—brings up images of pain and blood in the ushering in of new life into the world.
Sometimes, when listening to artists as they describe their projects, I’ll hear phrases like, “I poured my soul into it” or “I gave it everything I had.”
Is this healthy? Should we creators feel so connected to what we create?
I’m not saying there should be no connection, but perhaps less? Naturally, God feels some connection to his creation—he gave his son at great sacrifice to reconcile it and loves us immeasurably. That’s another topic entirely. But have you ever considered that God is not defined by his creation? Love it as he may (and does), God’s identity is not bound to creation. When creation succeeds or fails in terms of expressing the larger good, God is still God, regardless. Our acceptance or rejection of him doesn’t make him lose sleep. Our failure to treat others with justice and compassion doesn’t make him less just or compassionate.
So, as amateur creators (amateur in compared to the Almighty), should we, as we create, feel as connected to our work as we often do? As I write this blog, or work on a novel, or pen an essay…should I allow myself to feel such elation or utter defeat when it is praised or denounced in public reception?
Because, let me tell you, one of the hardest things I had to do as a teacher of journalism was to instill in my students the idea that my rejection of their stories was not a rejection of their person. I can’t tell you how many times I saw students deflated and beaten down when I had to tear apart their work. I did it out of love—an editor who needed to correct the grammar and structure of a burgeoning writer’s first steps. Correcting spelling and grammar was necessary for success in their careers. However, it was very surprising how personally most of my students took my criticism.
They put too much of their identity in their work. They lived and died by the praise or criticism of their teacher. And I don’t think that’s healthy. That’s my point. I don’t think it’s good that we “pour our soul” into things or “lose ourselves” in things. It’s too much. What we make doesn’t define who we are.
As a journalist, I had to develop thick skin. Editors hated my work. Readers hated my work. Hell, I was called and cursed out by dozens of parents of high-school athletes, commanders of misquoted units, organizers of misrepresented events. On and on, there seems no end to the vitriol in responses to stories I’ve written. At a certain point, I had to distance myself from the things I created. So much so, that now when I run into rejection, be it romantic, social or professional, I’m much faster in my recovery, because I try to cultivate a distance between what I make and who I am.
I think that creation is sacred. I believe that when we create, be it a love letter for our significant other, a house as a part of our job, or a blog post—I believe any of those things are ways we express our being made in the image of God. I believe it’s really awesome when we make stuff and when we can join together in celebrating others when they make stuff.
But, I think we should be careful to not tie ourselves to our creations overmuch. What we create shouldn’t define our identity. And in keeping that distance, we actually liberate ourselves to create more freely, more naturally, more consistently.
And it’s a good thing, because if this first book I’m writing ends up terrible, I need to feel good about myself, afterwards!
A couple of weeks ago I started a post on Facebook, asking people to give me some possible blog topics.
The responses ranged from unicorns to the national debt to murder. In fact, the friend of mine who suggested murder simply wrote it. Murder. There in the list of other serious and funny suggestions.
Don’t know why it stood out, but it did. So this will be a post about murder. Macabre, I know, but let’s see how it goes.
It’s not going to be a post about guns…or video games…or certain countries and their propensities for violence.
No, this post is going to try and speak to the core of ourselves, our purpose and why murder is so damned destructive.
As many of you know (or don’t), I’m a Christian guy. My thinking springs from this background and heritage, both the good and the bad, and the ongoing story of humanity as one of love and reconciliation between God and man. I believe in truth, justice and love.
As it is, I believe that a higher power that created us. I believe we are created beings…attach millions, hundred thousands, thousands of years to that overall process–let’s not get into that here. But there’s the persistent idea for me that we are created beings.
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures talk about how we were created in God’s image. This is a topic of great discussion and is the basis for much of the urgings for us to treat others with respect and kindness. As we are each cast in the image of the creator, we should strive to respect and defend the lives of others. But being an image of God is not just physical, it speaks to who we are and how we are made up.
We were born with the biological ability to create. We can make more. We can add to the world. In fact, we were asked to do this. We were asked to participate in the ongoing creation of Creation. We can fill the Earth with others like ourselves. We are created beings who can create.
This yearning to create doesn’t stop with procreation. What separates us from nearly all animals is our ability to create other things as well. We can make tools like some other animals, sure, but also sonnets, poetry, buildings, statues, canvases. We celebrate artists and musicians, architects and builders–men and women who create and carve and sculpt. We are created beings, made in the image of the creator, who want to create.
But the world has evil, which corrupts and detracts from the goodness that is there. We can see it in the earliest examples of family. The first brothers, Cain and Abel, killed each other. The first family was dysfunctional. The very first. Killing and violence has been with us from nearly the beginning.
Killing itself is deconstruction. It is the ending of life. It is the termination of the ongoing creative process of the cells, thoughts and experiences of an organism. Killing is a violent and disruptive act.
However, murder is worse. It is the insidious evil intent that drives a thought-filled being to willfully conduct violence to end another’s life.
It is the opposite reason we were made. It is more than an act. Murder is the willful rejection of every purpose set in our hearts by God. It is a fusing of our minds and souls with violent hate–the most “unnatural” of mindsets. Remember, we were made in love, our souls forged from the wellspring of Godly love. We were carried and birthed into the world with great pain and sacrifice by our mothers. In living out our purpose, we create.
No wonder war is so damaging to the psyche. No wonder it fractures and ravages the mind. Have you ever thought about it?
It is because in order to conduct war (unfortunately necessary as it might be), those who would throw themselves into the maw of violence must steel themselves and kill off portions of their heart. Those who serve in uniform must take the natural divinely inspired respectful regard for other humans and replace it with an non-human image of those people.
In examining battle reports after WWII, it was discovered that roughly half of soldiers involved in combat never fired their rifles. They trained by shooting at circle targets, but when faced with the image of another human, they froze. They couldn’t bring themselves to kill. As a response, human-shaped silhouettes were later used, desensitizing soldiers to the idea of shooting someone in their (and God’s) image.
We talk about “them” in hateful terms. We stir anger and hatred in our hearts, cultivate it, nurture it, spread it. After a while, we are less uncomfortable with killing others.
In the end you have those “rough men who stand ready to do violence on their behalf” as George Orwell said. And we celebrate those men and women for their sacrifice to safeguard us all. But it sheds some light as to why so many are haunted by what they’ve experienced. Coping with this season of violence and death is, at its core, the antithesis for how we were created to live. It is why these men and women need our support even as they leave those chapters of their lives behind.
However, this process of becoming more comfortable with the destruction of others is not just something that happens in war or by deranged lunatics in our midst. This process of degrading someone’s humanity can happen within us every day.
From pangs of hate cultivated through our conversations come racism, oppression…anything that allows us to greet our brothers and sisters not with compassion and respect, but with disdain.
“They” are good for nothing. “They” take our jobs. “They” don’t believe what I believe. “They” do things that I don’t like.
Never mind God loves “them.” Every one of them. Never mind that, right?
We can choose to either build others up or, through malicious talk, work toward the end goal of reducing another person to a non-human. People often say “you shouldn’t use bad words…it’s in the Bible.” Sort of. The admonition against saying words in anger to curse (and thus make worthless) other humans is in the Bible. Those curses and angry words usually involve profane words. However the spirit behind this command is not to keep us from saying naughty words. It is the urging for us to not tear each other down in what we say–to not degrade the humanity of others by de-valuing them.
In small ways every day, we move away from the ideals of compassion and toward murderous intent. We may not think we’re cultivating murderous intent, but the movements are subtle.
Instead of rushing to the aid of those hurting, we grow complacent to let them suffer. Eventually we say we’d be better off without them. And if someone shipped them off…or shot them, that’d be fine too for all we’re concerned.
I think we can choose to see people as people. Bums, immigrants, people of other faiths, of other orientations. They are people. They are created in the image of God to create. They are loved.
Truth should not be compromised. And neither should love.
Don’t cultivate murderous intent, no matter how small.
Friday we had our latest graduation. Forty six new journalists were fired off to the field and fleet, ready to start their careers.
Apart from the royal FUBAR of the actual ceremony, on which I’ve been forbidden to blog, afterward there was enough small talk and well-wishes to make the remainder of the day as amicable as we had originally planned.
One of my students came up, thanked me for not being a total bastard and asked, “When do you pick up your new class?”
“Two weeks,” I said.
“Wow, how do you do it? How do you keep teaching the same thing over and over?”
“New class. New people. New experience.”
“Seems like it would get boring.”
Boring? Naw. Every day is new. Every day is unique. Honestly, there will never be another evening like this one—not ever another breeze, or another rain like this one. The clouds will never align and sparkle in the fading day light as they are now, nor will ever there be that hue of green or purple or red in that pattern across the sky in the history of man.
It’s the same with work. It’s the same with most matters in our lives. Every day is new. Every conversation is a completely new experience. Every talk is a chance to learn something about someone and thus increase awareness about those we love.
Part of it all is the will to find enjoyment in things. For as insurmountable of a task as it might seem to be, honestly, a lot of it is in simple will. I will myself to enjoy things. I will myself to find happiness in smiles and the in betweens. Sure I have a mountain of things that keep me busy, but ultimately, I can choose to dread the day or find satisfaction in my work.
I’m not talking about going hippy and hugging every blasted thing around, but there comes a moment where you or I can choose to get up on the board and ride the wave. It’s a joining with life, rather than trying to redirect it.
I know so many people who spend so much time decrying every moment they’ve lived. Such-n-such didn’t work out, who-n-who turned out to be a prick. There’s a healthy time to reflect and learn, but the world is full of a million reasons to stay miserable and never get up out of bed. In my corner of the universe, I can choose to complain at the drudgery of everything, or I can adapt to a new perspective that sees the beauty in nearly everything.
I know, still hippy-ish, right?
Okay, look at a kid. A kid can experience the same story, read a thousand times, and scream with glee each and every time. A child can hold on to the wonder of life. A child can kick her legs and enjoy the breeze on the swing, then kick her legs for an hour more and love each time. Again! Again! Again!
But as we grow up, we forget. We forget how to hold on to happiness. We’re worn down from reality. We abandon happiness for realism. We convince ourselves that there is nothing to smile about, only the doldrums of the never ending cycle of life.
Some say that the universe is a cold and dead machine, spinning and gyrating with predictable forces and mechanisms that force the same pattern. The sun rises; the sun sets. Surely, some say, God does not exist, because, otherwise, why the boring pattern?
Ah, but what if God has never given up his child-likeness? What if he sees the magic of a sunrise and yells “Again!” each and every day? Is it such a crime to value the beauty of every day?
So, two weeks, new class. I’m stoked.
I may have talked about this before. After two-plus years of blogging, many perspectives change, but a few stay the same. I remember realizing his particular number back in college—now some six years ago. Wow. Long time.
Do you ever get the feeling like you’re nuts? I mean, like your ideas are just way too far out there? Like you’re weird for thinking or feeling something?
I felt that way all through high school and into college. Part of it was the typical teenage angst, but I had some serious spiritual concerns and unsettling issues.
For the longest time, I just ignored the lingering questions or initial reactions to situations or circumstances—preferring to go along with the immediate group, thinking that my ideas were just crazy.
Whether it concerned sexuality or God or even friendship, I had my own flavor of things—my own faith or my own outlook on life. When it vibed with others, it was cool; but more times than naught, people would bring up points of view or political dispositions that I was flatly expected to espouse.
And I’d resist, sometimes internally, sometimes being outspoken. Whenever I did argue for a new perspective, it never ended well. I had some blow ups at church, some arguments with friends. I was different, and it was unsettling.
Then I started meeting people. One or two in high school, then a few in college, more beyond, who were wired in the exact way I was. We’d finish each others’ sentences. We’d be passionate about the same areas, approach problems in the same way, and feel the same general unease about the larger world.
I came to realize that I was not completely crazy, but that God had wired me and dozens like me for a reason. I don’t think any of us really know what that reason is. And I don’t think that it’s some sort of club or exclusive thing.
The Christian Scriptures talk about how followers are the body of Christ—that we are the mechanism that expresses God to the world. Love, charity, compassion, justice, truth, beauty, humility—the essence of God, is transmitted to the world through believers.
The Scriptures talk about how, like a human body, there are parts that serve different functions. The eyes do things the ears can’t. The arms and joints work in ways the feet and hands don’t. Each serves a purpose. Each supports each other.
There’s a notion I hear sometimes from people that describe a general malaise with the current times. “I was born in the wrong century,” or, “If only I lived back then.”
You and I were born to live now. Fully present. Aware. Now. Not just to dream of yesterday or what may come, but to be here.
And you and I were wired with personality and disposition to mirror our purpose. Our passions are aligned with a focused determination of the creator to minister in a specific function to a purposed segment of the sh*tstorm of life.
Alone this is hard to see. With others, especially others with whom we share a certain connection, this becomes easier to perceive.
Who am I? Why do I think or feel this way? Where are my passions? What need I create? Where should I go?
It’s terribly exciting to explore our part in the revolution—the restoration of humanity. Every second makes you and I who we are and who we will become. With the proper perspectives, every second grows us, every second pushes us closer to our purpose.
It helps to find others, to build relationships. It’s tremendously encouraging when you can find others of like minds. Helps us realize we’re not so close to crazy as we thought.