My very good friend and favorite Skype companion, the lovely Miss DLF, recommended a book for me to read probably two years ago. I got it and started reading it, but then I got distracted from it somehow and put it down. Well. I picked it back up this morning, and wouldn’t you know it, the chapter I read was about Christmas. “How appropriate,” thought I, “I should share this with my blog readers.” And that’s exactly what I intend to do.
The book is a collection of reflections on art, creation, culture and faith, and how we can view each one and the world through the lenses of the others. DLF recommended it to me because she had enjoyed it so much and felt that as a fellow artistic type, I might also enjoy it. And so I pass along the recommendation to anyone who considers him/herself an artist. The book is “Refractions” by Makoto Fujimura, and I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the chapter I read this morning just to give you a sense of what it’s like and to give you some food for thought so close to Christmas.
I know that many of you don’t think of yourselves as artists and might, therefore, think that this does not apply to you. Let me just say right now that it does. And also, we are all artists in one way or another. If you create anything – whether it’s words, photos, paintings, fruit displays, pottery, jewelry, music, acting, floral arrangements, dance, architecture, film, graphic design, cookie dough Christmas ornaments, CAD drawings, animation, a remodeled kitchen, recipes, origami boxes, scrapbooks, ridiculous/hilarious scenarios, or a really good batch of cookies – you are an artist. And this is for you.
“A Japanese pastor wrote that the most important message of Christmas is that Jesus was born as a babe, weak and vulnerable to the world. A baby is utterly dependent on a mother and a father, and others helping the baby to survive. Imagine, one who would claim to be the all-powerful Creator in flesh, becoming vulnerable and DEPENDENT on fallen human beings like us!
But when you think about it, a baby’s strength also lies in this weakness, as he or she draws people together. The message of Christmas is a paradox. It is through the weak that power is displayed. It is through the vulnerability that true, lasting security is gained. It is through being utterly dependent on others, that a true community is created.
The message of Christmas, then, can be applied to what we do as artists. What would our art look like if we truly believed that through our weaknesses, through even what we are ashamed of, we could create something that is lasting and meaningful, and incarnate hope back into the world. What if the power of a community is not in the display of power, but in the acknowledgement of our weaknesses? Artists can play an important role in helping a community to be authentic and honest. Japanese aesthetics already embraces the idea that weakness is beautiful: that what is wearing away and what is imperfect actually points to eternity.”