Also known as Walking on Water Part II =D Read part I here .
Because there is so much material in Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle I will probably be doing a myriad of posts based on the book. Once I have gotten all my thoughts about this book out I will create a page for you to find out about all of them. You can read the first post I wrote about the book here.The bulk of the good stuff in Walking On Water is in the last four or five chapters. The excerpt from the book that I will be focusing on today is from the chapter titled “The Journey Homeward”.
L’Engle talks about, in order for us to create, as artists, we have to let go of ourselves. She compares this to faith a lot and talks about how we delude ourselves into thinking that if we obtain control over ourselves we’ll gain more faith or as in the artist’s case we’ll be capable of “writing the great American novel” or whatever it is we desire to create. But, in Christianity, the solution to us gaining more faith is never us summoning more self control but letting go of ourselves, dying to self, surrendering to God. Self-control is actually an oxymoron when you think about it because we don’t have control over ourselves because of self. The question then becomes how can I release control of myself to have more faith or as an artist, create art? L’Engle explains by intertwining what happens when we pray and how the same thing happens when we create.
“In prayer, in the creative process, these two parts of ourselves, the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind, stop fighting each other and collaborate. Theophan the Recluse advised those who came to him for counsel to “pray with the mind in the heart,” and surely this is how the artist works. When mind and heart work together, they know each other as two people who love each other know; and as the love of two people is a gift, a totally unmerited, incomprehensible gift, so is the union of mind and heart. David cried out to God, “Unite my heart to fear thy Name.” It is my prayer, too.”
When we pray, our heart and mind are in agreement and the same thing happens when we create. Prayer is a way for us to communicate with the divine. On the next page L’Engle quotes in length Berdyaev, the Russian religious and political philosopher, but I am only going to pull a sentence from him. He says;
“The creative act is an escape from the power of time and ascent to the divine…”
This quote really revealed more to me of what praying is about versus what creating is about. I already view creating as a worshipful act because it is who God made me to be and so by creating I am in cohorts with God about who I am which then brings glory to God. Worship is that which brings glory to God. In prayer, “we ascent to the divine” by communicating with God. L’Engle responds to Berdyaev by saying;
“Most artists are aware that during the deepest moments of that creation they are out on the other side of themselves, and so are free from time, with the same joyousness that comes in the greatest moments of prayer.”
I believe this reveals some of the high that you can get from creating, because you go to “the other side” of yourself. You tap into your subconscious which can be liberating. Maybe that’s what creativity is all about, tapping into our subconscious, liberating ourselves, being free. I shall close with thoughts about this paragraph by Berdyaev,
“Creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin, the expression of man’s true vocation, but creativeness is distorted and debased by sin. Hence the ethics of creativeness deal with the agonizing struggle of the human spirit. Creativeness needs purification, needs the purifying fire.”
What this really says to me is that creativity is a form of sanctification. Creativity can bring us closer to the divine because we go to the Creator and say I am a little creator but I wish to create with you, big Creator. God invites the artist back into time, before sin, when were designed to create with God. I believe this is what Berdyaev meant by “creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin,…” not only is creativeness a struggle against the sin nature, it is also a solution. It is a form of sanctification, purifying our spirits and bringing us into communion with our Maker.
P.S. Share your thoughts about the ideas L’Engle expresses in the comments below. I would love to know if you agree or disagree.