Wednesday, 7 July 2010

our desires: not too strong, but too weak!

I’ve come across a chap who writes an interesting blog.

I struggle with my blog. I started to set up one (separate from my artist’s blog) as an alternative for musings which I’ve previously ‘published’ as Facebook notes. But, anyone who engages meaningfully with the artistic process knows that art and life are rarely (if ever) separate. It doesn’t feel natural to try to neatly compartmentalise them into separate blogs. And yet, it takes a while (if ever) for the relationship between art and life to become explicit and in the mean time I’m more than slightly worried that unedited, seemingly unconnected 'Processing' scattered across my artist’s blog will seem unprofessional and worse, irrelevant.

I’m not quite sure how to resolve that yet.

Anyway, back to this blog I’ve stumbled across. I found on it an interesting article that was a refreshing read and which I agree whole-heartedly with. Well articulated James Cary!

(Here is part of his post; the whole thing can be read at

How Do I Know How I'm Doing?
There is a wonderful hymn that begins one verse with the line "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise." It's a great thing to sing, although the brevity and poetry hide a multitude of ambiguities. Should we really not heed wealth or the praise of men? Do these things really mean nothing to us?

The reason I pose the question is that I've been thinking about a question that's easily missed by the Christian who works in the arts and media - or indeed any field - is 'How do I know when I'm doing well?'

…And if I'm a Christian artist, film-maker or architect, what am I aiming to achieve, and how do I know when I've made it? It seems that a certain amount of riches and the praise of men is not an insignificant factor here.

Of course, some say that they perform for an audience of one - being God, obviously. That's true, and sounds great and godly. Well done. But God has given us all responsibilities, and our craft does not take place in a vacuum. God has given us a vocation and a desire to please him, and please him we must. But he has also given some of us spouses and children to provide for. Therefore, the work we do must not only be pleasing in God's sight, but commercially viable, lest our pursuit of excellence becomes a selfish vanity that causes hardship for others. We are not to be a burden to others but to work with our hands, making enough to be hospitable and generous.

We need to be mindful of our age and stage. When I was a young single man, clearly I had more creative freedom and was able to live on very little, having just been a student. Now I have to pay rent for a three bedroom house in London, and look after a wife, two children and a Ford Mondeo (no kidding). To piously assert that I am only interested in God's opinion of my work is a little disingenuous. Life is complicated - and that doesn't have to be a cop out to pursue wealth.

We can easily fall into the very British trap of assuming that all wealth is suspect and must have been acquired at some cost to someone somewhere. Either someone has been exploited or artistic values have been compromised and the artist in question has 'sold out'. But this misrepresents how wealth is portrayed in the Bible. Wealth is not suspect, but a blessing (eg to Job or Abraham). It is also a responsibility and a possible snare (eg. to the Rich Young Ruler). We must live open-handedly, but for those of us who are full-time creatives, our God-given crafts and skills must be put to use, and our God-given families must be supported. It is normal for these two to be linked, and therefore 'riches' need to be 'heeded' at some point.

…The main problem is that we compartmentalize and divide our lives into chunks and sections and set on off against the other.

Really I have very little to add to this. Thank goodness, though, for the ‘proviso’ –

“We need to be mindful of our age and stage. When I was a young single man, clearly I had more creative freedom and was able to live on very little, having just been a student”

- Otherwise I’m damned! When you are making money, it’s an easier article to write. But what if you don’t know how to chanel your talent to generate money, no one pays for what you do and you don’t know how to do much else.

My friend Tamara put this C.S.Lewis quote up on Facebook just this last week

" would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak…”

For me it is an encouraging thought! I feel as though the desires of my heart are so strong they are utterly overwhelming and if I were to let them grow I'd explode. It's amazing to learn that Our Lord finds mine not too strong but too weak.

I’m going to 'up' my desires – to make money and to make art. In truth, it's not a new desire, but now I’m going to (try to) fearlessly release it with faith and a renewed confidence that Our Lord doesn’t find my desires overwhelmingly strong, as I do.

For the foreseeable future (forever?), this unlikely artist is dependant on God’s favour alone if there is any hope of living a non-compartmentalized sustainable creative life.

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