Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Rather Long-Winded Contemplation of Creativity

The morning began with that ever-deceiving hint of coolness... that momentary chill that is altogether foreign in the heart of Gonzales, Texas. The over-cast day, welcomed only momentarily by the locals, fuels my soul with hope and excitement at the thought of a cool summer shower. Those who have been here for much longer than myself know instinctively that, after the initial rainfall, this impending shower is no more refreshing than the pouring of oil into the heated skillet. As the morning wore on, my hope remained doggedly and steadfast, despite the rising chorus of the locusts. They sang their rattling, sizzling song, even before the oil had begun to pour.

Last night, I made my seldom visit into the chaotic world of Facebook, with no real purpose more than to satisfy a timid curiosity at what the rest of the world was doing. The rest of the world, in case you wonder, is engaged, married, or pregnant (usually a combination of some kind). Upon the shock of seeing that yet another high school friend was married without my very notice, I followed the links to find something most inspiring. This old "friend' or "acquaintance" or whatever such persons are once you haven't spoken in years, had posted a page of artwork for sale.

My virtual re-acquaintance with this individual represented in my mind a kind of free-spiritedness I have found lacking in my own life. I have found it lacking, more specifically, in my spiritual life (not at all, however, intending that the spiritual is separately compartmentalized from any other aspect of life). I suppose that when I am honest with myself, which I usually try to be, I feel a bit like the simmering, sizzling locust beneath the cloud. The cloud, then, is my created-on-a-whim metaphor for a structure that is intended and promised to be beneficial, but rather looms darkly, lowly, oppressively, giving way only, perhaps to a liquid that is altogether unsatisfying. And so I sizzle, simmer, attempting to drown out the sounds of my own thirsty desires.

Before we begin to make assumptions about said desires, let me clarify that this is not a metaphor akin to The Awakening by Kate Chopin or anything of the like. My spirit longs, rather, to sing in the rain (cool, refreshing rain), paint on the rooftops, to write a piano concerto, etc, etc.  Perhaps in a feeble attempt to relieve some of this nervous artistic energy, I completed a task that is altogether superfluous in nature.

I pulled from the wreckage that is my cupboard the much-neglected espresso and latte maker. I attempted to make lattes for my husband and I (since he only drank a cup of Earl Grey this morning) as a surprise. He was delivering a can of OFF for me before beginning his interminable journey of delivering newspapers all over Gonzales and the neighboring towns. The espresso machine, apparently enraged and possessed, began to boil, bubble, and splatter hot water through it's steam cap in a disastrous display (granted, I probably shouldn't have tried to loosen the steam cap while it was hot) just in time for Prince Charming to enter the scene of the crime. Surprise, surprise. Actually, despite the horror-stricken look he must have seen on my face, he didn't seem too surprised. Needless to say, that isn't flattering.

Nonetheless, Micah helped me brew espresso, nixing the milk (that never got steamed), for an iced latte. As for me, while working in the air-conditioned house with an overcast view through the window, I had no desire for something as Summer-typical as an iced latte. Instead, I poured espresso into a short mug (all of my demitasse cups are currently used for decoration), a little nervous about the pungently light roast of the Papua New Guinea blend from Fredericksberg Coffee and Tea, Co.  Undeterred, I added a bit of cream, a bit of Starbucks Vanilla Syrup, and a single ice cube. This was a thrown-together beverage evocative of the Starbucks Barista trade-secret beverage, known in some parts as "Fire on Ice", others as, "Vanilla Blast", and honestly I forget what else (but believe me, there are others).

Although the recipe varies as much as the name, it is essentially espresso, cream, ice, and a syrup of some kind (typically vanilla, hazelnut, or both), poured delicately in skillful layers using an upside-down spoon, and quickly chugged, often in congregated circles of sleep-deprived, chanting baristas. This was used on early weekday mornings, after a long sleepless night, around exams time for the college kids, and also on those groggy, why-are-we-here Sunday mornings.

My own cup was thrown together quickly, sans the layers, poured in moderation, and sipped down slowly, savoring the complexity of the flavors and sensations.

And so this cup, however superfluous, however destructive to my now ruinous kitchen, is the beginning of soulful expression. It is a cup raised in earnest desire to seek my God passionately, without reserve, without apathy and the halfheartedness that makes one as ineffectual as the sizzling locusts.

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
C. S. Lewis 

I suppose then, that what I desire is not merely to be creative. I don't think that could ever really be enough. Writing piano concertos (which I admit is more of an expression pointing to extravagant creativity than any real intention to write a piano concerto) can never be enough in itself. The desire is deeper than that. God created us to create, I think, and not solely to create, but to express ourselves to Him and how we feel about Him to others. That is what I want. I don't want to play old, tired church games. I want to throw off the confines of tradition and sing to God a new song in my heart. This is quite an internal matter, and not to point fingers at any external institution or authority. But I need to write my own songs. I need to sing them freely, loudly. I need to face the fact that I traded writing letters to God for writing letters to the World. Although I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, I realized my need to cultivate and express affection for God when two things occurred to me at once: 1. I had failed to spend time in prayer and Bible Study on a daily basis for a week or two, and 2. I thought to myself that I hadn't noticed any sin or points of weakness in my life.

  I was confronted by the revelation that I had slowly, quietly, habitually slacked off in my pursuit, and had been thinking I was okay, whilst God was accomplishing basically nothing in the work of sanctification in my life.

If the definition of repentance is truly the act of turning from one direction and moving toward the opposite direction, which I believe it is, then let today be a day of repentance.

Cheers, and God bless.

Natasha W.

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