SPECIAL GUEST POST: This is Part 2 of an inspiring talk presented by Linda Hart Green, one of the principals of The Shady Ladies Art Gallery on 8th St, in Fernandina Beach. Click here to see Part 1.
We also internalize messages about who we are and what we are supposed to do from others. As someone trained to understand people and organizations from the perspective of family systems theory, I encourage you to spend time reflecting on the patterns of communication and relationship in your family of origin.
There we will find both the seeds of our inspiration and the weedier messages both overt and subtle that can impede our artistic vision. My family has a very strong work ethic and there is nothing wrong with that. But I did not learn much about when it was OK to stop and rest or play and that such time was equally valuable. Our deep Protestant roots added a strong sense of the imperative to serve others. There is nothing wrong with that either. But does one serve others at expense of the self?
Those of us who came along in the wake of the Greatest Generation of WW II and those who were reared by those who came through the tribulations of the Great Depression may especially have to wrestle with internal questions like, “Is being a writer a selfish pursuit? Is painting a real job? We have also heard it said in our presence sentiments like: “Poetry is nice but it doesn’t feed hungry people.“ The arts are for those with leisure time.” You can add your own messages to this list. We each have to do the work of integrating our backgrounds, our life experiences, our family responsibilities with our internal yearnings. We are our best selves when we first honor our deepest longings and are true to our own hearts.
I ask your indulgence as I give you an example using theological jargon! It’s my occupation hazard! One’s “espoused theology” is what one says one believes. One’s “operational theology” is what one’s life says about what one believes.
For most us, getting espoused theology and operational theology to line up with each other is a life’s work. We have to practice what we preach!
True spiritual maturity is the integration of the two. I had to realize that while I preached that all are equally loved and accepted by the Holy One, I acted toward myself like I had to work to earn that acceptance. I preached that we are each co-creators and that creating honors the spark of the divine in each of us but making art wasn’t OK for me. The preacher had to bring her espoused theology and her operational theology into alignment or…start practicing what she preached!
I would love to be able to tell you that my creative journey has been a straight line of growth and success for the last 20 years. Truth is, I went back to the pastoral ministry full-time and full-tilt in 1999. At first, I took time to take some classes but then I let my schedule be crowded by other responsibilities. I set up a room in my parsonage, but it fell into dust and disarray. I dabbled with art in fits and starts. I injected the arts wherever I could into the life of my congregation. But there was more work for me to do. I had another profound shift ahead of me.
By this time, it was 2005 and I had weathered the storm of a church fight and a divorce and had met and married Harry, a Unitarian minister! Scandal! I was really kicking up my heels. We went together to our ministry and career counseling center to discuss our future life together. There I was blessed with another caring person important to my journey.
My counselor told me that I was ignoring the artistic side of who I was at my peril. Every test, every exercise, every question and answer session pointed to the fact that I was as much an artist as a minister. With that encouragement, I began to reintroduce art into my life. Seven years later, I took another leap of faith and retired early and we moved here. At first, I made art at home and worked for several other artists on the island. Last year, my 3 other art partners and I opened our own place, Shady Ladies Art Studios.
I am indebted to many for inspiration along my creative journey. Some names you know like Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way workbooks. A theologian I want to mention is Matthew Fox. Those of Roman Catholic background may know of him and that he is a controversial figure who was censured by the Vatican and removed from the Dominican order. He is now an Episcopal priest and prolific author and teacher. In 2002, he wrote a systematic theology of creativity, entitled: “Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.”
He is known for reimagining the biblical stories and teachings in a way that shows that they speak of humanity’s original blessing, not original sin. From that original blessing flows our passion to co-create along with the divine.
He writes that it is the task of artists and writers to lead not only ourselves and our communities but also all of CIVILIZATION by growing our hearts, deepening our compassion, and calling out what is unjust and ugly. Artists and writers are the ones who can help guide others through perilous times of cynicism, boredom, and despair. (written in 2002!) Even more true today!
Thank you for allowing me to share some of my personal and professional journey with you, my fellow creative people! Our mediums may differ, but I can affirm to you, from my own experience and from what I have learned that you are made with original blessing! You are here to see with open eyes and open hearts and open minds. The world needs to know what you see and to benefit from what you create in response.
As you write, may you be filled with the energy and joy that comes from participating in the flow of creativity that permeates the whole world.