Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Art is a Way of Knowing

This morning I began a new book, Art is a Way of Knowing by Pat Allen, subtitled A guide to self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment through creativity.

I have long been interested in the link between spirituality and creativity, first led to think about it when I read Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way", and I have read and even taught on the subject off and on for over a decade. I have noticed in my own situation, that my spiritual life has paralleled my creative life. When I was actively and positively creative, my spiritual life and that feeling of being close to God was also active and positive.

Which feeds which? Does the creative spirit open me to God, or does God's spirit open me to creativity? I don't have that answer, but I do feel the two are indelibly connected. Here is the passage in Art is a Way of Knowing that snagged me. In the section before, Pat Allen talks about how she had always kept images. She says...

"I did this, I think, because I felt in a way that I didn't exist. My existence was marginal, uncompelling, because my feelings, necessary fora sense of meaning, were missing. Art making is my way of bringing soul back into my life. Soul is the place where the messiness of life is tolerated, where feelings animate the narration of life, where story exists. Soul is the place where I am replenished and can experience both the gardens and graveyards. Art is my way of knowing who I am.

It is very possible to give a very convincing portrayal of life even with one's soul in exile. Only the meaning is missing. When I first began doing work with images, there were times I thought I was insane, so unfamiliar to me was the chaos of human feeling. I have felt split off from sunlight and laughter even as I stood in the sunlight and laughed with friends, and thought no one else ever felt this way. Images have allowed me to reclaim some of what was lost in growing up, the ability to have feelings fully, and in the moment. I don't believe that art cures or fixes, rather it restores the connection to the soul, which is always waiting to be reclaimed."

I have lived in the place she describes, and so these two paragraphs in the preface, told me I needed to read this book. Not an artist? Then substitute the word poetry (what I write) or music, or gardens or woodworking or ... You get the idea. Creativity, that part of God that we all have in us, part of his image in us, is part of the connection between us and God.

I just started the book, so I can't tell you how it works, how well it's written, or what change it might have on me as I read it, but it was worth buying the book to read this one passage, and be reminded of the real power of creativity, it's ability to help us reconnect with soul.

I bought my copy new at the Northshire Bookstore. They probably have more there. They also have a used copy for sale at a good discount, if you wanted to order it.

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