artful analogies


    One of the things I have been turning over in my mind for the last couple of days is this post from Back Road Journey:

    This past Sunday in worship we were asked the question, “What is the opposite of war?” and before I could even think of the standard response of “peace,” we were offered a refreshing response, “art is the opposite of war.” Art. Art… How does this work? The pastor continued, “the opposite of destruction is creativity.” Well of course. I rather like this way of thinking.

    The analogy takes me back to SAT days:

    war : violence :: peace : creativity

    Whatever violence is, it is not creative. As I wrote in response to the post, creativity begats life; violence begats violence. Whatever shape it takes – war, destruction, personal attacks, abuse, power plays (the list is by no means exhaustive) – violence doesn’t offer hope or humanity. War is destruction, regardless of the reasons for waging it or the spoils collected from winning it. When we fight, we become cannibals, feeding on ourselves. The people on the receiving end of our destruction are not “them”; they are us. The only way the enemy stays an enemy is for us to give them a caricature rather than a face.

    We are created in the image of God, the Bible tells us almost from the first, which means we are spitting images of the One who dreamed up whales and wallabies and gave us minds to dream up whipped cream, wall paper, and wine. (I was trying to stick with w’s.) I realize there are several stories in the books that follow that tell of God telling the people to invade other lands (Canaan in particular). I’ve often wondered if what they heard and what was said was the same thing. Even if they heard right, the violence was not creative for very long. Finding the lineage from life in Gaza these days back to those biblical scenes is not so far fetched. But I digress: I’m not trying to write a treatise on nonviolence as much as I want to talk about how the post intersected my life this week.

    One of the realities of any youth camp or mission trip is there is going to be a Last Night. Our group had worked hard and had endured several days of temperatures in the nineties and they were tired, but that didn’t stop them from planning to stay up as late as they could last night. We, as the adults on said trip, had to decide how to respond factoring in we were staying in someone else’s church, we had to drive the vehicles home this morning, and the kids would be able to stay up later than we could. That may seem a far cry from war and violence, but bear with me. If creativity is the opposite of destruction and violence, then we are talking about more than war: to teach creatively, speak creatively, work creatively, relate creatively, even write creatively means to do so without violence, without doing damage.

    We could have waged war against the all-nighter, as have many youth workers over the years, but Ginger had a more creative idea: why not take everybody out to eat at an all night diner? It’s a pattern we have followed on many youth trips: take the thing that carries the most potential for destruction and turn it into a creative act. If they were going to be up late (and they were), why not make a memory out of it. When we had finished our evening session and completed the beginnings of our packing and cleanup, we piled in the vans and drove to the Goldroc Diner, an 24/7 Hartford institution. (We did call and tell them we were coming.) At fifteen minutes after midnight, thirty-five of us sat down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on the person and we ate and talked and laughed until nearly two o’clock when we go back to the church. Though some still wanted to watch a movie, no one stayed awake long and no one had to play night watchman.

    creativity : destruction :: all night diner : last night of trip

    During the Balkan war, I remember hearing a story about cellist Vedran Smajlovic:

    In the spring of 1992, a mortar shell hit a bread line in Sarajevo, killing 22 people. The next day, Smajlovic put on his work clothes – black tie and tails – and took his cello to the bomb crater and played Albinoni’s Adagio. He continued to play one day for each of the dead. After that, he played at sites of bombings throughout Sarajevo.

    creativity : destruction :: cellist : bomb

    One of the best things about getting away on a trip as we did is you get some days where being together is the primary way of being. The news that mattered to us was what we did together that day. We worked together, played together, ate together, lived together. Creativity thrives in community. As the various cars pulled out of the church parking lot taking the kids back to their various homes, the bond we forged couldn’t help but unravel somewhat. We are no longer together. We are back in our lives, bombarded with violence. Creativity can still thrive, but not without intentional commitment. We are still together if we choose to be, and we have room for others to join the circle. If we allow ourselves to believe that separating violence is the status quo, then we lose sight of the One in whose image we are created and we lose sight of ourselves.

    Violence is a far easier path to take than the creative road because it’s what we think of first. Creativity is not a knee jerk reaction. It is thoughtful, intentional, tenacious, resilient, inclusive, inviting, faithful, and foolish. In a world full of violence, it’s hard to believe that which way the world goes depends on an all night diner or a cellist.

    The best way to get through the night together is to go to breakfast.
    The only way to play in a bomb crater is to believe it makes a difference.

    diner : cello :: love : hope


    P. S. — Creativity also surprises. I have a new recipe that grew out of a mistake.


    1. This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. It really is so much easier to destroy than it is to create.

      I was talking to a friend one day about a CD he recorded. Steve is a fine pianist and one day decided to record his music. This came about during a time of great turmoil in his life.

      Long story short, Steve realized that anger, unrest and contempt are never healed through more anger, unrest and contempt. His emotions played out in his music and through his God given talents, Steve produced something that many people have enjoyed.

      Thanks for the great post.

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