Beauty is a form of protest. At least, I’ve come to understand, it is my protest. My survival technique. A necessity to meaning. An essential component to living well.
When I speak of beauty, I’m not talking about perfection. I’m not trying to cover up the grit or the narrative of vulnerability that sits right beside. I’m not interested in perfection—in fact, I think perfection is boring. Perfectionism as an approach to artmaking or living has never taught me anything other than to play it safe. To not take risks. It taught me to lean into performance as a way to be accepted. It taught me to hide myself. It was corrosive to my soul. And living a creative path requires risk. Faith is an art form, a love story. And it demands imagination.
I’m trying to make something of meaning with my life. Making space here and now for art and beauty. A space for whimsy that somehow holds tension and gives it a voice, too. It’s what good art has always done. I also believe I have place for Wisdom, A God Shaped Wisdom, in my life.
I don’t often talk about my faith. I find that the ways I experience God tend to be outside the realm of traditional Faith Orthodoxy. But if I could describe it to you, I would say that it is an in-process, imperfect art-form. Sometimes when I pray, I question what the point of praying is. Or why God would listen to me when I talk about my fears when there are people in the midst of more unspeakably harsh circumstances. (The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, for example). St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 that, “…We are God’s handiwork…” The Greek word Paul used for handiwork is “poiema.” It is where we get the English word for poem. Some researchers would go so far as to say that Paul is describing humankind as God’s Artwork. On my good days, I believe that I am a poem, and I believe that my God loves me. I am trying to embrace this definition of my identity as a living, breathing, art form. This belief shapes how I see beauty. Beauty that exists side by side with pain and challenging complexity. I am trying to love well in everyday ordinary awkward circumstances. When I get a chance, I break bread and wine with others, and maybe cry and then laugh, and then cry some more.
Poems we are. Every one of us.