The Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education.
Religious philosopher Henry Wieman asks us that we pay attention to our own life experiences when searching for “God.” He suggests that “God” is in the process of creative interchange and we experience the holy when we are participating in that creative interchange. Art and artmaking are a direct way we can outwardly express ourselves and focus ourselves on that creative interchange. I wonder where you engage with the holy in this way, where do your creative impulses take you?
For me, the events of the day can best be processed while shaping an image or bent over a potter’s wheel forming a bowl or holding an implement of creation in my hands. I find it empowering to create something, to be fully present in expressing my emotions and feelings, sometimes in ways, I am not even fully aware of. It is a joy to have others share meaning in my making. There is a deep satisfaction in creating a vessel that someone will cherish, a cup that enhances the experience of sipping tea, a chalice that someone will light in celebration or mourning or ritual.
When I was an elementary school art teacher, I experienced palpable delight in witnessing children grow into their own power to create art. Nonetheless, after 9/11, I witnessed young children draw airplanes flying into buildings for years and it was wrenching. I frequently resisted the urge to encourage them to make something else. Long after the adults in their life tired of explaining the tragic heartbreak of 9/11, the children continued to process what they had witnessed. It was hard to watch but good that the children felt safe to express themselves and, in a way, start to heal themselves.
It is my kind of miracle, one I can believe in; making can help heal, can shift our reality from heartbreak to hope. Art can be an antidote for despair.
At a time when hope is fragile and rare, I turn to artists throughout history who transform their experiences of pain into beauty while creating connections across identities and through time. Seeing Frida Kahlo’s painting “Henry Ford Hospital,” or hearing Billie Holiday sing, “Strange Fruit” allows us to share the emotions and insights of the artist’s struggle, creating a shared experience can heal through understanding and compassion.
Whatever your medium, whoever your muse, may we all give art some space to fill our heart and heal our souls this month.