We had just finished drawing a picture with pen and paper and spent ten minutes writing about our lines and curves and smears of ink. As we went around the room sharing our work and the thoughts it provoked, Harry said, “Art is wasteful”.
It caught me by surprise that the leader of our writing workshop would say this. Why? Because there were better things we could have done with the pieces of paper we threw away? Because we spent ten minutes on something that would end up in the waste basket? Because the papers we doodled on weren’t really worth anything ?
“Art is wasteful’.” I scribbled in my notebook and seconds afterward …”So is grace.”
I think wastefulness is the gift of art.
It’s value is subjective, coming from its ability to make us pause, ceasing everything else to lose ourselves in a moment of noticing the details. It’s beauty is literally only measurable in the eye of the beholder. Whether we participate or simply observe, we are overcome by it. Pushed into memories and emotions not because we set out to go those places, but because we allowed ourselves to be drawn into the mystery of the human mind and what it can create.
It mostly operates outside the realm of function. Not useful. Not mass produced. Inefficient. It takes hours of mixing paint, carving, or subtle movements with the pencil to produce one small piece.
When we are truly making art we begin to suspend our consciousness of what is good, or proper, or desired, and we begin to let the words or colors flow without judgement, doing only what feels authentic in that moment. Left with a smile or tears because in making it, something deep within us has made it to the surface and been offered to those around us.
Maybe being “wasteful” is not so bad after all.
Maybe that is God’s primary mode of operation in our midst. Not checking the boxes of our functional expectations, but surprising us with extravagance and complexity…joyfully splattering paint on canvas rather than drawing us a diagram…
Maybe allowing ourselves the freedom to unleash our own creativity pushes us into a liminal space of God’s love (and self love and love of the world) that cannot be entered in our obsession with answers, theories, and explanations.
At least that is what I see around the table on Tuesday afternoons at Speak Up.
A group whose value is typically determined by what they look like, what they do or don’t do, what they have or don’t have, daring to allow the ink on their paper tell a different story.
A story of hope, imagination, passion, and beauty.
It could be said that these people, many of whom struggle with homelessness, are wasting their time, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Taking time to write for the sake of writing, has the potential to create a new lens to see one’s identity. Rooted not in deficit, but in the intrinsic giftedness that flows from deep within. A much needed reprieve from a world obsessed with function.
Doing art sounds like practicing grace to me.