Reflections on Art, Faith, and Life

Month: November, 2012

There are no “little things”

I say this to my choir on a repeated basis as we cover all the necessary components of preparing a top-quality performance. In fact, just the other day, I was blessed with the opportunity to share my choir and my thoughts at a state convention. The session was about all the “little things” pertaining to text portrayal in choral music. All day I was blessed with compliments, both on my choir, and my presentation. Hang with me, this is not an “isn’t Clark wonderful” blog! It merely sets the stage for my thoughts.

As I was reflecting on the day, the comments, the people, the atmosphere, etc…. it struck me how applicable this was to an attitude of gratitude and our should-be sense of thansgiving. Please don’t limit my thoughts to merely being a “thanksgiving blog” – that is certainly the timing, but in my heart, I’m referencing a life filter – not a season!

What are some of the “little things” that have recently occurred to me? Allow me to share, but please also allow me to frame these.

1. My wife was at my presentation. She corresponded electronically from her job to tell me she thought my presentation was stunning! Wow! What husband wouldn’t walk on the clouds at hearing the love of their life utter that proclamation?!

2. My oldest son called to tell me he had been asked to judge the Lincoln Public School culinary competition. He just recently was invited to go “work a shift” (I can’t remember the chef word for this) at an upscale restaurant in Omaha to augment his skills.

3. My youngest son has been published twice this month. Hearing him talk about that is wonderful, and hearing how well his job is going, and how happy he is, is pretty cool.

4. One of my daughter-in-laws is going through all the adjustments of her first year as a full-time teacher, and the other DIL just started “working the floor” as part of her training/schooling.

I know this is being read by people that have multiple reasons to be proud of and happy with their families, so what is the point of sharing this with you? Here’s the point: my wife could have merely THOUGHT that and not communicated it; my sons could have “done their thing” without telling dad; my DIL’s could continue to do what they’re doing without “filling me in.” These are what could be viewed as “little things,” but there are no such things! They are gifts from God that give me the chance to be reminded how good He is, and how connected my family still is to Him. They are precious to me because they didn’t have to happen – but they did!

What are the things around us that don’t have to occur, but do? What is our response when life is rich and full? What is our demeanor when God graces us so abundantly?

It is easy to see what we focus on! We are trying to plan our thanksgiving in dad’s nursing home this year. This is new to all of us, but I still have my dad around! How do we look at things? Are we content with the blessings of the Father, or do we grouse at everything that isn’t the way we would wish it?

I had the blessing of having a week where I received so many reminders of just how connected we can be, and just how HUGE some of those “little things” really are. I wanted to use my experience as a way of encouraging and inspiring others to: DO the little things, SAY the little things, and BE the little things. Because really there are no “little things.”


Passive Art?

One of the things saddening me over the course of my career is the slow but steady decline in the number of people participating in art! So many community choirs, bands, playhouses, etc…. have either lost traction or completely disbanded. Interestingly, the audiences are often there – the number of people needed that will commit to rehearsing and performing have dissipated. We are becoming a nation of people with an acute thirst for entertainment – we just don’t want to be part of the providing side. In increasing numbers we are comfortable having art “done to us.”

There was a time when even small public school districts had multiple students far enough along in their training to accompany the schools’ performing ensembles. It is getting harder and harder to find today. It is much harder  to find that in school  settings today. Membership in even school ensembles has dropped. Marching bands seem to be a bit healthier due to their direct link to athletics (marching band, pep band). I believe we are facing a serious shortage of people who find art-making necessary! I also believe people are not fully aware how art-making enriches their lives.

Before I proceed, let me affirm that I am not making any qualitative judgments concerning art. I am not limiting this in any way. All art is good to someone, so please don’t think I’m only talking about “classical” art. That is where my heart/passion lies, but in no way is this blog-post about representing the “ivory tower” in any way.

Simultaneous to the erosion of participating in making art has been an exponential explosion of the concert business. We have gradually shifted our emphasis away from making art in some way, to paying (sometimes ‘ungodly’ amounts) to passively experience art. We download stuff from iTunes, check out websites and venues for concerts to attend, WATCH show after show on television that try to weed through the next set of wanna-be’s in order to find that next wonder performer who can performer FOR us, and whose concerts we can attend.

This is not a diatribe on the concert business or on reality television (which is far from reality). Everyone one in my family has enjoyed being “fed” by great entertainment experiences – Les Miz, Phantom, Cats, Wicked, Tosca, La Boheme, Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Mumford & Sons, Maroon 5, Dave Mathews, Weird Al, and the list could continue (it would be impossible to list all the Indie bands one son has used to feed his artistic soul). My family has a rich heritage of attending entertainment events. My family also has rich heritage of MAKING art! This, I feel, is an appropriate balance.

There is something that happens to one due to the creative process that cannot happen merely by listening, even that listening rocks your world. We were created to create; hence, we are not fully who we were meant to be unless we’re creating in some way(s). My poetry is not nearly as accomplished as my music-making, but I keep doing it because it’s something creative. Sometimes we are blessed to experience the thrill of deep significant art – regardless of the outcome, we are changed, and I think for the better, when we participate in the creative process.

To participate in art is to link one’s self to something bigger than one’s self. I cannot underestimate how important I feel this is. When we constantly join forces with something larger than us, it has a way of not only nurturing our spirits, but of reminding us that it’s NOT about us. I find this therapeutic and health-building. To commit to helping others collectively do something that could not be done individually is a rewarding and glorious event.

This is a call for you to embrace your creative nature and find some things you can commit to – then MAKE art! Don’t just passively sit/attend and have art “done to you.” This country does NOT need more guns, violence, math/science, technology, etc… it needs more humanity! There is nothing more humane than art!