I think creativity is an essentially redemptive act.
The Mythic opening of our scriptures begin thus: In the beginning, God created. The very first thing we know about God is that He is creative. Into the darkness and void, He brings beauty, order, and meaning. And we humans, most miraculously and foundationally, are made in His image, which means a profound part of our identity the ability to create.
In her book Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle describes acts of creation as “bringing cosmos from chaos.” This is what we see in Genesis, God singing into being a cosmos out of the chaos of the void. Under this definition, creativity can wear many faces. Bringing cosmos into chaos can be seen when a composer brings the dancing notes on a score into soaring unity and harmony. Bringing cosmos into chaos happens in a well ordered house with pictures on the wall, a candle glowing, and soup on the stove. Cosmos can be brought into the chaos through a well tended garden.
I hope I bring some cosmos to chaos when I set words down on paper.
The redemptive creativity sewn deep in our beings is directly opposed to the chaos we so often encounter in the world.
So often, the trials that rock our souls most are ones which seem to chip away at who we are as a person; the trials that unmake us. The sadness that strikes and makes you wonder if the joy so natural to your personality is gone forever. The relational difficulties that make you wonder if you really are able to have close and loyal relationships. The rejection that makes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to pursue the dreams of your heart.
Beyond the personal realm, evil erodes the beauty and order of culture. Perhaps we could even consider the more drastic evil of terrorism; an evil that seeks only to destroy the sense of safety, order, and trust. We perceive chaos in our political spheres.
So often, our true trial is not only in bad circumstances but in the feeling that who or what we love is being destroyed, mangled, un-created.
When we are creative in any capacity, we battle against the unmaking of pain and evil.
When we create we declare that there is order and loveliness in the world. This does not mean that all art must be orderly and lovely; a great role of art is to tell the truth, and the truth is not always beautiful. But good art always seeks to mean something, and therefore to declare the world meaningful.
While in Dublin last year, I had the great delight of seeing the Book of Kells, a collection of ancient illuminated gospel manuscripts created in the monasteries of Ireland and Scotland in the 8th century. They are truly awe inspiring; one of the most moving pieces of history I have ever encountered. Each book is covered in illuminated painted scenes inspired by the gospels. They are so intricate you can hardly perceive the patterns woven into every scene. Though they are ancient, the colors are still vivid and diverse. When you look at page, the woven patterns and colors almost seem to dance and spin. But as amazing as the manuscripts themselves is their story; they were created during tumultuous years of the Viking raids in Ireland. I can’t remember the exact number, but the monasteries in which they were kept were raided and burned from 30-37 times in 15 years… and yet the manuscripts were carefully preserved, surviving even when most of the monks perished in the attacks.
In response to the great un-making evil of the Viking raids, humble monks and scribes created and brought beauty. A beauty which spoke to my soul and strengthened my faith 1,200 years later. Could there be anything more brave?
A poem in the margins of one of the scribes’ work reads:
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
This is the redemptive power of creativity; bringing cosmos from chaos, light from dark. And I believe this is the mission to which we are called. To turn darkness into light. To stare into the chaos of our broken world, and to bring cosmos. To paint, cook, love, sing, write, dance, teach, heal. To act in the image of the One who sustains our being. To look at the crumbling bricks of our world and say, “I think I can make something of this.”
So, what will you create today?