Friday, August 17, 2012

Politics, Creativity, and Dreaming the Future

I used to believe that politics had more potential to change the world than any other societal institution.  My 19 year old self would have scoffed at the idea that religion could be transformative in the same--or better!--ways.

My 47 year old self feels a great weariness when it comes to any political discussion.  Once, I would have been happy to discuss any political issue.  Once I knew exactly what politicians needed to do to fix any problem.  Once, I'd have stayed up hoping for news of Mitt Romney's running mate announcement--maybe I'd luck out and news would leak.  This week, my response has been a giant shrug.

I've been worrying that maybe my attitude signals apathy or numbness.  But Beth Adams has written a series of posts over at her blog which gives me comfort.

In part one, she gives us a quote from Richard Rohr:

"I think that the great disappointment with so much political activism, even many of the non-violent movements of the 60s and 70s, and why many people were not long-lasting in these movements, is because these movements did not proceed from transformed people. They were coming from righteous ideology of either Left or Right, from mere intellect and will, and not from people who had put head, heart, body, and soul together.

We need to find inside ourselves the positive place of communion, of holiness, where there’s nothing to react against. Pure action is when you are acting from a place which is good, true, and beautiful. The energy at that point is entirely positive."

Perfectly said.  I no longer believe that most politicians are working for a better society.  I used to believe that, even as I would admit that not all of us agreed on the definition of that better society.

Beth talks about her own evolution and concludes this way:  "I've learned one thing, for sure: you have to start with yourself and your own attitude. No matter how terrible our challenges are, when we react from a place of anger, we haven't done all the work we need to do, and ultimately we will only add to the amount of anger, violence, and frustration that already exist in the world. Positive energy attracts other positive energy, and a great deal can be built from there. One place to begin is by looking for and truly understanding what we already do have, the precious things that can never be taken away from us."

Lately, it seems that so many people who want to talk about politics have this raging anger.  It's not a righteous anger.  It's the kind of anger that so quickly veers to destruction.  It feels too dangerous to me.  We can't afford it.

Beth writes a second post where she advocates art and creativity as a response to the brokenness of the world:  "The fact is that we are living in a time when the decision to be an artist, to continue to create in spite of everything that's happening around us, IS a radical political act. This is, I feel, quite a dark time, potentially destructive to the best and most noble aspects of the human spirit. And that's precisely why it is terribly important for artists in all disciplines to continue to create, even when it feels like there's little market and little appreciation for our work. Just doing it, and making the difficult decision to continue to do it -- to live creative lives that celebrate what life is and can be - is both defiant and affirming, and it's crucially important. People need to know that someone they know -- a neighbor, a friend, a cousin -- is committed to the arts. Young people particularly need to know this."

I've been feeling a bit of despair lately, especially as I consider my work life.  Last night, at Church Council, our pastor asked us where in our weekly lives we see ourselves working towards God's purpose and vision.  I thought of all the e-mails I write, many of which aren't terribly important, even as I write them.

But maybe I should think about my art, my writing.  Maybe that's where God plans to use my gifts and talents in the transformative work that needs to be done in the world.

Or maybe, with all the turmoil at work (talk of lay offs and grimmer visions), God says, "Welcome to the second part of your work life.  I have great possibilities to discuss with you."  Is a program that would train me to be a spiritual director calling me most strongly?  Could I make a living with my art alone?  Is it time to return to full-time teaching?  Does God need people like me in administration to transform institutions like higher education?

These are the questions that I'll ponder in the weeks ahead.  I'll be looking for discernment.  Or maybe just the twinkles of possibility.

One thing is for sure:  I'm not headed into politics any time soon.


Beth said...

You know, Kristin, when I was 47, I was asking the same questions you are here. By opening myself up to new possibilities, and praying and meditating, and working hard to develop my own gifts in positive directions, a lot has happened and changed -- beyond my wildest imaginings, really -- and I'm quite certain it will for you too. I felt very alone back then, except for books. Isn't it fantastic that we have the internet now, and can communicate with people who share our concerns so much more easily? As the world becomes more challenging, we need each other more -- and, miraculously, here we are.

Kristin said...

Thanks so much, Beth. It's good to know that others have walked the path before me, and good to have your words and art beside me!