Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Hello Friends. I'm sort of new around here (this is my first post). But I must say that I too, like Anne, have gone over these sorts of thoughts time and time again. I find myself in a strange sort of situation. For the past three years I've been a member of a professional, touring, rock and roll band. And for the past year I've been attending a Quaker meeting. I've wondered, quite a lot if my career and my religion are at odds with one another. I can understand how some might think they are, but I personally believe that they aren't necessarily. I certainly don't subscribe to the drugs/sex/alcohol lifestyle that many in my position do. But still there are the issues of being in a position of having constant attention and my lively hood depending on my being interesting that don't quite sit right.
I've been reading a lot of Quaker poetry lately and trying to find as much Quaker art as I can. But as Anne eluded; most of this art is the sort that is strictly worship. It is difficult to find art by Quakers that isn't necessarily "Quaker art".
There is a part of C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce, that talks about an artist who is at the edge of Heaven and there is a beautiful mountain range they must cross to get there. He wants to paint the mountains but someone explains to him that where they are going (Heaven) there will be no need for him to paint a picture of anything because everything there is already complete. The artist can't wrap his head around this and doesn't want to go to a place where his talents are meaningless. So he doesn't go to Heaven. I felt so much sympathy for this artist when I read that and often wonder if I'm in the same position.
"The Arts" are not a special interest of mine; Currier and Ives and Audubon are about as far as I go!
However, I want to call your attention (you probably already know!) to the memoirs of Edward Hicks, now available in reprinted form http://www.amazon.com/dp/1117632113/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
As with many conservative Hicksite Friends, I think Edward Hicks was orthodox in theology, but became Hicksite for non-theological reasons. Edward Hicks was a cousin of the controversial Elias Hicks.
The Wikipedia essay on Edward Hicks discusses the conflicts he experienced concerning his art http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hicks
Best wishes for your artistic career and spiritual pilgrimage!
Music and grace filled movement speak to me in ways I cannot describe. During a particularly difficult time in my life I was led to Chris Spheeris's music, much of which I found incredibly prayerful and peaceful. After Image has held a favored spot at the end of my Tai Chi/Yoga practice. Most of my listening is instrumental, I prefer the music take me where it leads rather than where the lyrics say to go.
Peace be with you always
I can't imagine how furthering yourself and your passion could be in conflict with Quaker values. I think the question is, how are you bringing the Quaker values to your passion, not is your passion in conflict with the values. In your situation, it may be subtle at times and it may involve creativity. But to follow someone else's path when you're in a unique situation that not many of us have experienced would be denying yourself what's possible.
This is also coming from someone who likes expensive things - I ride horses. I like winning blue ribbons and doing well. Both horses I ride are imported from Europe, one of which I imported myself. There is nothing simple about my lifestyle. But even within that, I trim my own horse's feet, I have taught myself many skills that others pay for. I care for my horse myself instead of paying someone. Within my training, I have worked with horses that were deemed dangerous and sent them off to better homes, and within my photography, I hope to improve animal welfare. The way I look at it is, I'm going to do my passion the best I can and I'm not going to stop doing what I love because of Quakerism; but I can bring the values into my passion wherever possible. I can make more of a difference that way than I ever could by giving up what I believe I'm meant to do.
I should add that I was raised in a more liberal, unprogrammed meeting and under FGC and OVYM. More conservative Quakers may disagree with me.
Lewis got this [as he did so much else] simply wrong: Practice of your gift is Heaven.
Painting pictures appears clearly to me to be one of those trifling , insignificant arts, which has never been of any substantial advantage to mankind …it is the inseparable companion of voluptuousness and pride.
Edward Hicks (Quaker 1780 –1849)
I had a dream. In this dream I stood in a Quaker Meetinghouse and built an altar. If you are a Quaker you will smile at this absurdity because Friends do not have altars in their places of worship.
Nevertheless, it was a dream, so I built this altar. Higher and higher, week after week, month by month, until finally it was complete. It was beautiful in its design and execution. Made of hand cut stone and white marble.
I came to Meeting for Worship the following week and the altar had been torn down. Broken into pieces and scattered across the floor. I was so angry! Who would do this destruction! Who would ruin my creation! I was indignant! I was self-righteous! I, I …
When I awoke I came to realize that what was upon this altar was pride. This dream was all about pride.
To be selfless is considered commendable but difficult. To be selfish the opposite but, oh so easy. I think that there has to be a middle way.
I believe that to be creative you need a strong sense of self. To be self-ful. You must have a point of view to have a vision. The message of the dream for me was to be self-ful but not prideful.
Here is the message for you…are you building any altars that need to be torn down?
Ps. You will note that the quote by Edward Hicks is quite ironic considering that he painted all of his life and is the most widely known Quaker folk artist. Also Friends have not frowned upon the arts for at least 100 years, so I feel that I am in the clear… and so should you. Create.
Hi Jacob, I started writing you my feelings on this topic when you first posted and had everything ready to go and the computer froze and lost the lot, I am sorry I did not get back sooner. I myself am a Conservative Friend and an artist, I have had this dilemma that you talk about because of the profession I am in. Because I am in the fortunate position of being collected here and overseas and reasonably well known in my neck of the woods, it throws all sorts of problems before me at times. I guess the main one is ego, people telling you how good they feel you are and how happy they are to meet you can go to anyones head. Thankfully I have a strong support system within my family who keep me grounded, especially our young adult children. I remember one time a person wanted meet me (an art student) and one of the galleries rang to arrange a meeting, I told my daughter of this and she looked at me like the person must have been crazy! My daughter was able to point out the basic truth in all this and that is, before God He views us as who we are, stripped of all the worldly things we wrap ourselves in. Other people may see us as special but to God we are no more special then anyone else. Having said all that, I would say that if you have a talent Jacob as a musician you should use it to the best of your abilities as this is a gift of the Creator to you. The creative lifestyle has its dangers but I believe if we don't kid ourselves of these dangers and make sure we have a good support system among our family and Christian Friends we have a good shot at witnessing to Gods glory through the gift He has given us. Like you Jacob, I have struggled over this many times in the last twenty years but I have seen so much happiness and good bought to other people and my own family from this gift that God has given me that it would be wrong of me to do anything else but continue on with it. You will know the areas you need to stay clear of I am sure.........