Friday, August 28, 2009

Slightly Askew

To be an artist is to be a prophet.

This is what my fiction professor challenged the class to consider this past week, because prophets are not those who just look; they see. They have a heightened and unique sense of sight and uncompromising vision. In other words, artists are the ones who look at the world through a frame that is slightly, or drastically off-kilter from those of everyone else. If the frame of most people hangs perfectly level on the wall, the frame of an artist finds acute or obtuse angles to set itself by. If the frame of the majority is a square, the frame of an artist is an oval, or triangle, or better yet maybe a hexagon. Because lets face it, those of us who are artists are just a little bit weird. We break the rules, change the norm, prolong the air of childhood, and take the long way round just because. We hang upside down in trees, take notepads into crowded places to record strangers’ words, spend hours drafting manuscripts or scores while everyone else is sleeping, and all for what? To find a different perspective. We see something we are convinced no one else can see, and we are compelled to find a way to express it, even when we lose sleep and get stared at while we hang upside down. And the problem is that the things we try to express are ineffable. There are no words or paintings that can fully capture what we have to say. But this does not stop us. Because our frames are hanging crooked. In our vision, the rules bend. We haven’t yet learned what can’t be done. We find the faith of children to conquer the impossible.

So this semester I am praying for vision, for the just the right angle to slant my view of the world, of God, and of myself. I am asking for boxes to be broken and for stories to come and teach me. Because writing is not just a selfish endeavor but also a means to engage community. Writing is a form of hospitality, of creating space for things other than myself, for ideas that are bigger than who I am, for characters that do not already have a voice. To create is to learn, to force myself to understand, to find words for what cannot be explained. Art is crazy, but it’s beautiful. It makes my heart come alive. It must be similar to the feeling that overwhelms God when one of His children finally starts to understand, to see themselves in the light of how they were made, to settle into becoming heaven’s work of art.

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