Maybe it was my freshman year in college. I had an art class. Most of it was studying pictures out of a book, and remembering who did what and when. That was the graded part. We also had to write on a particular piece at a museum, though I didn’t receive a paper back, and my suspicion is this paper was merely to exercise my typing skills. For fun, and intended so, we had to go to that mysterious art building, once the old gym, where long haired passionate men and women mingled amidst clutter. There were oil paints, and brushes waiting for our use. Paint a self-portrait was the project. So I did.
On a small piece of cardboard I tore off a box my parents had sent me.
I remember I had greyish skin, red flaming hair, with a cross and a sword in the background. I don’t remember why. It got a compliment from one of the few attractive girls in my class (and I mean freshman class… Wheaton is known as an ‘academic’ school among Christian circles, with all that reputation entails).
Or maybe it was later on. In seminary oddly. I had another art class where we went to museums and got papers back. I wrote a long paper on Irish illuminated manuscripts, focusing especially on the Book of Kells. (which is significantly more impressive in pictures than in reality — due to poor lighting and underwhelming display) . I didn’t merely research, I also got my hands dirty. Pencils and pens attempted complex designs, getting decent at a few, enough to get a feel for the work, and insights into the meaning.
I like art. This fact surprises me.
I had a friend in high school who was passionate about art. He drew a lot, and was an art major in college. His dream was to be an animator for one of the major studios. As I haven’t heard from or of him for about seven years I don’t have any idea what he has done with this dream. Then I knew art as something he did.
I’m turning thirty in not too long, and somehow over the past year I’ve realized I’m fairly good at things I spent most of my life wandering away from.
The power of writing first touched me that same freshman year. I wanted to be a lawyer, and didn’t entertain writing seriously, even though I was flirted with in my writing classes not my history classes.
There is a certain excitement in causing gasps from fellow students that I for whatever reason ignored.
I was stupid then. Or maybe I had a path to walk before my eyes could turn. Ah, what my youthful earnestness could have produced had I pursued the artistic path.
Now, today, I didn’t venture into writing, though this week holds now the closest I have ever been to finding an Answer in that field. No, today it was visual art, web design stuff which for whatever reason entertains me beyond description.
There is music as well, playing my saxophone with the old masters. It all ties together, it is all the same. And I’ve spent my whole life wandering away from this deep pressing passion, which embraces me as much as I now embrace it.
So, now, turning thirty I see paths which would have been wonderfully walked upon ten years ago, only I knew no better, wanting to change the world through prosaic ways. I turn to God, and the art comes out, drowning the voice of everything else, showering me with both bounty and depression in the exact same measure in the exact same moment.
Everyone I think discovers their bounty. However, most live life so as to drown out the call, financial security is always a much stronger addiction than liquor or drugs.
The bold, spiritual, or stupid take the leap out and attempt it all, seeing what happens, come what may.
Which is why failure is so much closer to success than mediocrity. Failure sees success, mediocrity knows nothing past itself.
All this to say that I had a day in which projects burgeoned, in various ways, and I tasted peace in moments which came from directions I never expected. All this to say, had I settled, or been allowed to settle, in career or relationships, I wouldn’t have found these moments.
There is a gift within it after all.