Recovering The Garden Experience In Our Creative Calling
In the midst of a culture of speed and efficiency, we are invited to courageously advance creativity by reaching back to its simple origins.
Imagine this: a Garden. We see God design an experiential environment that engages all of our senses—an Eden full of pleasurable sights (plants and trees), sounds (streams flowing from the ground), and aromas (aromatic resin & onyx) designed to communicate a connection with the Creator through the creation itself. At every moment, His creation resonates with His glory and we are reminded of who we are and Whose we are—because He knew we would need reminding.
Imagine now: the Garden, deconstructed. It is plowed, with concrete and steel structures built on its ground. The connection has been severed. Spiritual amnesia sets in. The experience of the Garden is diminished.
We have entered the age of industry; and we have, in many ways, all gone along with it. If nature is a source of divine connection, we have wandered from it. And if art and beauty is a way that shows us who He is, we have siphoned its power in our hurry towards progress.
Humans are meant to engage with the world and with God, with our whole self—all of our senses, spirit, soul, and body. Our created works as artists should bring us back to that grand vista view of connection. That spaciousness. Our art has the power to create an embodied experience of original intent, creating a sense of awareness and remembering who we are and Whom we should be connected to.
Our culture tends to perpetuate fragmentation with its machine-like, utilitarian approach. A basic description of utilitarian: designed to be practical and useful, but not beautiful. Utility is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s advancements have helped humans thrive in many ways. However, practicality doesn’t woo us. Beauty will.
Efficiency and economy suffocate the message by drowning out the experience. Is it more beneficial for us to work the garden or automate the process? Tools can get us from A to B, but we miss the experience in between, and perhaps lessons that are imperative to our flourishing that are learned in the process.
The Amish tend to filter their acceptance of technology and advancements with one question: will this bring me closer to my family and God, or will it drive us apart?
Our work and creative focus veers off balance when we focus on whether what we create functions or performs well, and accomplishes our goals quickly, rather than if it connects to our Spirits.
We have experienced advancement through technology, and almost limitless knowledge is at our fingertips. Subsequently, the gap between imagining something and creating it has grown smaller and smaller. We can envision something and then create it before the day ends.
But possessing an ability does not always mean we know how to use it. We must be wise in how we steward these new things. To embody our art with the essence of the Creator means doing things differently than the world. It means infusing it with love, time, and care. Art that engages people in experience can’t be ignored. We can’t simply glance at the Sistine Chapel and move on—it requires us to stop, stand, and wonder.
What does it look like for creatives to step out of the current of our culture and take a long look at what we create? Would it connect us back to God? What does it look like to create work that astonishes and jolts people out of a spiritual slumber? What if what we created was so infused with the fruit of God’s life-giving spirit that it creates life-changing experiences? What if the goal of the creative was to connect people in a meaningful way, that brings us into a place of collective remembering?
There is an inherent duality in creating—form and function. Form is the expression, the essence, the message. Function is the purpose, the way it fulfills a need, and the way it might help people. We need both.
If ever there was a time to integrate these dualities, it is now. Tools on their own are lifeless, but in the hands of an artist, a tool can create divine work that is open-ended, with the potential for flourishing and multiplying. Consider the monuments of the past—there were extreme limitations, but vast experience in what was created:
Notre Dame (180 years to complete). Leonardo’s Mona Lisa (7 years to complete). Brahms' First Symphony (over 20 years to complete).
This is the kind of creating that echoes across time and leaves us in wonder.
As faith-filled creatives, what we create can become monuments that point people to God. Our invitation is to courageously advance creativity by reaching back to its simple origins. To reveal who God is through what we create and how we create it. To focus not only on the utilitarian aspect of our artform, but the experience of the people that enter in to it, and how it can connect them with the God of the Garden.
The God of everything is a God of process, not quick fixes; of depth and not facades; of vast experiences and therefore, vastly expansive connection.
“Culture will come when people touch things with love and see them with a penetrating eye.” – Max Weber
“The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From the artist, it gains life & being. It has power to create spiritual atmosphere.” – Wassily Kandinsky