studio arts as spiritual discipline
by Christopher L. Cormack

If we are honest, we must acknowledge the constant state of "busy-noise" with which we live in twenty-first century America. We are exhausted and empty and yet we continue to try and find new ways to move faster still. Even in rarified moments when we do finally stop, we manage to surround ourselves with noise. We aren't so much still as we are sedate. We clutter these moments with television, radio, internet, and other distractions. We reach such a point of exhaustion that we want to completely disengage and just be numb.

Stillness, however, is never numb. There is a kind of peaceful tension that exists amidst stillness that is not present in our brief pauses.

Human beings are inherently spiritual beings. Though our particular expression of faith may be chosen, our identity as spiritual creatures is not. It is ontological - we cannot escape it. Because of this, we must strive to embrace th[e spiritual] part of ourselves. But how do we accomplish that? How do we hear the "still small voice of God" in such a noisy world?

This is an important question, and one that I have been trying to answer for myself. I imagine that it is slightly different for everyone, but I believe that one of the most sensual ways in which we perceive the Divina is through the arts. Whether we be painters, pianists, carpenters, dancers, mechanics, or thespians, we each know that there is a deeply spiritual aspect to each of these activities.

Arts give us the opportunity to create - creature becomes creator in these sacred moments. We need to create, to do something new and different, "to be surprised out of our propriety" as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. This is a fundamental desire of humanity precisely because it connects us more deeply with the Divine Breath that dwells within us.

If we can use the arts as a way to engage in a kind of active stillness, we will find ourselves quieted within, such that the noise no longer matters. Much like Elijah,* we find that God is not in the fury of the wind, nor in the clamor of the thunder. Rather, we find God in the deafening silence that follows.

* Scripture reference : 1 Kings 19:9-18


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