Over the last few days I have been encountering over and over again the rare gift of creatively living into calling and life. So many of us walk like zombies through our daily lives seeking to get through them instead of living them, myself included.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Frolic Room in Hollywood this last Friday afternoon with my friend iAN, we encountered over the span of five minutes, at least five or six people passing by who were barely living their lives. The majority, and the ones my friend noticed with his tender heart, were those who had been sculpted by the brokenness of life. The old man slowly shuffling down the street, the homeless punk kid riddled with scars and markers of rejection before the ripe age of 22, and the forty something man with the backpack and construction boots. Yet I also saw the surgically crafted woman, the couple that was dressed to the nines in super hipster couture and insecure, and the guy trying his best to be cool. In all these people lay lives that were missing something...Thoreau's lives of quiet desperation. In large and small ways we miss the beautiful gift of life, instead we choosing anesthetization and the slow suffocation of our desperate souls. We all easily misplace and lock away the truths we know, the ones of simplicity from our childhood or passing moments of clarity... the truth that we are intrinsically creative (even those who don't perceive themselves to be in possession of even an atom of creativity) it is our nature, our breath, our ruach (Hebrew for spirit, breath, wind, Spirit of God) we are people birthed and formed in creativity. The second truth that we misplace is our perception that we are able to do this alone.
What I mean by this is that we are unable to break out of our warped and misaligned translations of our lives and experiences with out the help of others. I cannot break out of my fractured perception with out others to walk with me to offer new mirrors and helping hands. Personally I have been telling myself the wrong whys for the brokenness and pain in my life for so long that it takes almost daily reminders to break though that bullshit. For the utterly broken, be that brokenness spiritual, mental, physical or a wild cocktail of all three and more, and even for those not so broken communal engagement is needed. When community fails to hold light and truth then individuals are less whole.
The statement "God helps those who help themselves" (Benjamin Franklin said this, not the Bible...this is actually counter to biblical teachings where restoration and help is a vital part of the community and community and individuals suffer when there is a "I can do it on my own" attitude) while holding a kernel of truth in that we must be co-participants in healing and restoration misses the point. Without the interaction and help of others one cannot find help. How often has someone tried their best seeking everything in them to quit drinking or eating or to start exercising or introducing a new habit, only to be over come with the impossibility of the task. The transformation that is being sought usually comes when others come and walk with that person through the hard journey of transformation. The caveat to this would be that the person seeking to change their life in some way must already want that for the support of others to be affective.
Ok so going back to the idea of creativity...later on that same afternoon I had the chance to sit with two kind and funny men who are lucky enough to get paid to do creative things. What struck me in the brief conversation is how lightly they treated that great gift. Both Robert and Ben are blessed to play and write music (Robert) and create and execute beautiful lighting designs and manage band tours (Ben, the latter of which requires incredible amounts of creativity...I mean think about it dealing with band and crew has got to take some pretty massive amounts of creativity). Everyday they each enter into a space of good hard work that, if they have eyes to see it is rot and saturated with the beauty of creativity. I have often heard Robert and the other members of his band say that when playing and creating music becomes work more than it is creative and fun then it is time to end. This is one of the reasons that have been given for why their former band mate left, was because it was more work than enjoyment. Yet I also wonder how does one cultivate that freshness, that wonder of the early time when you are still in love with the gift. And going back to the idea of community when that love starts to wane, to fall away and passion becomes monotony, I think what is needed is others to hold up the mirror. They must come around and say here is where passion and the needs of the world come together in the unique and beautiful way that only you can offer. Or in more harsh terms "Listen do you know how many people would kill for the chance to create music as a living? You GET to do that, but not only do you get to do that but you and your band have the potential to become one of those world changing and influential bands musically and socially. So why aren't you doing that...get off your ass and go live into that calling." And that is what community does it come and holds the mirror offering you a different perspective on your reality. Community comes to shake out the flawed voices and turning your head to see more broadly that you were able to.
In what I know of Robert's father Michael, he offered light in darkness and perspective shifts. Michael seems to offer both an understanding of the gift life; especially a life that is created in lived passion as well as the responsibility and weight of that gift. As a musician it was not enough just for him to play music but that creativity needed to pour out and offer something to the community. But the gift of Michael went beyond that he was someone who encouraged and inspired those around him. Every story I have ever hear told about the man speaks to a person who loved others well and delighted in them. I love reading and watching interviews with him because I see someone who cares for others offering grace and compassion and time. This image, for that is all it can be in this present reality, is a man whom I long to know, who shines as an example of humble Christ-like presence. To me he is an example of community and care at it's best...encouraging those around you to rise up from the ashes of your interpretation and see something differently in a way that will change your life. Creativity and community found a place in Michael as I have been told.
All of this to stay I have been kicked in the ass by Ruah with reminders, reminders to stop sleepwalking through life awaking only for the rare moments. Instead I need to learn to live and breathe and see each moment as a space for creative engagement. With that creative engagement I will also embrace community and what it has to offer me...especially in the ways in which community helps me to better see how to "read" my life so that in new translations I can see how to engage with creativity more and more.