Brokenhearted Theology, California, Equipping, Leadership, Meaning, Narrative, Ramblings

Sol LeWitt and the ReCreation of the World

The other day we had the chance to slowly move through the SFMOMA, one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area.

I spent a while sitting in proximity to a few different pieces by Sol LeWitt, an American conceptualist.

LeWitt’s work appears deceptively simple, using little or no color and simple geometric shapes and patterns.

“By repeating and varying a single principle, he created sculptural structures that were aesthetically satisfying even as their internal logic was pushed to the edge of irrationality.” (SFMOMA)

SFMOMA has a room filled floor to ceiling with several of LeWitt’s wall drawings, intersecting lines emanating out from several loci in bold primary colors.

These drawings are simple and they are beautiful.

But what struck me most was LeWitt’s conviction that the true art lay not in the product but in the idea or concept. The piece of LeWitt’s art I was looking at (Wall Drawing 273) was an original LeWitt, and yet at some point the wall would be painted over and a draftsman (following LeWitt’s instructions) could recreate the art on a different wall without losing the originality of the art.

Although it would resemble Wall Drawing 273 as I saw it (LeWitt’s instructions dictate the number of lines, the number of locus points, the color of the lines, etc.), the shape and size of the wall, the lighting of the space, etc. would all change the dimensionality and feel of the next iteration of Wall Drawing 273.

Again from SFMOMA’s bio on LeWitt, “each of these impermanent artworks consists of a set of the artist’s instructions, something like a musical score, with the actual execution carried out by someone else.

Unbelievably beautiful.

And now for some theological reflection…

I couldn’t help but wonder if this isn’t the pattern of creation and recreation that we find in the Christian Scriptures:

impermanent artwork: Genesis 1’s depiction of Eden isn’t static or sculpted; the garden is meant to flourish, multiply, grow, and change.

set of the artist’s instructions: not a blueprint or schematic, but a coherent yet loose invitation into the ongoing (re)creation of the world

something like a musical score: LeWitt’s concept for Wall Drawing 273 isn’t beautiful in and of itself, although it is, in some sense, the art. But when the instructions are drafted onto a wall, the art takes a shape and form that can inspire awe, breathlessness, wonder, reflection, inspiration, etc.

actual execution carried out by someone else: This is perhaps the most profound, the openness and willingness of the artist to invite other’s into the recreation of their art (not as the artist per se, but also not not as the artist). Every iteration of Wall Drawing 273 will be different, but they can all be true.

The entirety of the Christian Scriptures invites humanity into the project of (re)creating the world with a coherent invitation into the shape and form and concept yet with an unbelievable freedom to expand and innovate and adapt within the conceptual artistry.

 

 

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About Me, California, Family, Meaning, Narrative Theology, Ramblings, Resurrection

I know the future. I ignore the future.

This is not unrelated to what I wrote a few days back.

The last few months have been a bit of a blurry season with a lot of travel, additional projects our family has taken on, and the regular rigamarole of the days between Spring and Summer.

I was in a conversation with some friends the other week about meaning, happiness, fulfillment, and the rhythms of life. We talked about work-life balance, finding joy in everyday moments, and navigating the frustrations of various seasons of life (a lot of them involving the complexity and noise of life with little kids).

It struck me that despite the present feeling fuzzy and complicated, the future is crystal clear.

One day I will wonder why I worked so much.
One day I will wonder why I didn’t spend more time with my family.
One day I will wonder why I spent so much time feeling stress from artificial or actual deadlines.
One day I will look back with both fondness and regret for the season I wake up to every morning.

I know the future, a beacon warning ships away from a dangerous coastline.
I ignore the future, a whisper of what will be but need not be.

Bronnie Ware was a palliative care nurse who spent time caring for those in their last stage of life and chronicled the five most common regrets people had looking back on their life:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

We know the future.
May we not ignore the future.

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About Me, Brokenhearted Theology, Leadership, Meaning, Narrative Theology, Ramblings, Resurrection

And may I never, never, never grow so old again

I awoke early this morning, hoping to catch some time of quiet reading before the inevitable wave of chaos, volume, and wonder that is our kids waking up. I grabbed some leftover coffee I stashed in the fridge, opened a window, and sat in my favorite chair with a book.

In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again

About a half a second later our youngest woke up, ready to be “out! done!”

I went to help him out of his crib and thought maybe he’d play quietly while I read a bit. But it was time for “milk! milk!” And so I got him some milk.

And then it was time for “dance! dance!”

It was definitely not time for “dance, dance.” It was time for quiet, silence, coffee, and a book.

But he was insistent. He leaned in, patted the carpet where we have our family dance parties, did a few spins and leaned in again – “dance!”

So I popped on Astral Weeks and we danced.

You turn around you turn around you turn around you turn around
And I’m beside you
Beside you, oh child
To never never wonder why at all

As we danced, our oldest awoke and ran out, smiling and laughing. Within a minute we were all on our backs doing bicycle kicks. It was impossible not to laugh, smile, and find joy.

It was the best of all possible mornings, but when Krissy returned from her early morning working at a coffee shop, I had already entered a space of forgetful frustration:

“The boys have been cranky since they woke up.”

Looking back from the vantage point of this afternoon, it’s a slow release of silent and spoken curses and regrets. But also a glimmer of grace as I remember and solidify the true reality of this morning’s magic.

You breathe in you breathe out you breathe in you breathe out you breath in
you breathe out you breathe in you breathe out

And I will never, never, never

Grow so old again.

God, help me never, never, never grow so old again that I miss these morning moments.

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Brokenhearted Theology, Contemp Culture, Future, Leadership, Meaning, Peacemaking, Quotes, Ramblings, Resurrection

Fail Well and Live Truly

Failure lands somewhere on the spectrum of death.

Which makes sense, because failure is endeavoring to bring something to life – an idea, a project, a hope – and resulting in something other than life, i.e. death.

Yesterday, I invited our community at Open Door to consider risk, failure, experiment, and practice as deeply embedded parts of our formative journey of faith. Luke 9 paints this picture well in the life of Jesus and his followers – they are sent out to do the things Jesus did and along with some success, they also continue to experience failure. Being called, sent out, saved, etc. does not guarantee success – quite the opposite, it seems.

Few things have painted a better picture of this for me than Patti Smith’s performance at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony honoring Bob Dylan as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

After this performance, Patti Smith profoundly reflected on failure, artistry, and life in this New Yorker piece. Smith writes:

The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing. The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them. From the corner of my eye, I could see the the huge boom stand of the television camera, and all the dignitaries upon the stage and the people beyond. Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out.

This strange phenomenon did not diminish or pass but stayed cruelly with me. I was obliged to stop and ask pardon and then attempt again while in this state and sang with all my being, yet still stumbling. It was not lost on me that the narrative of the song begins with the words “I stumbled alongside of twelve misty mountains,” and ends with the line “And I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” As I took my seat, I felt the humiliating sting of failure, but also the strange realization that I had somehow entered and truly lived the world of the lyrics.

I’m struck by Smith’s phrasing of this “strange realization that I had somehow entered and truly lived the world of the lyrics.”

While failure is on the spectrum of death, there is something about moving through the experience of failure with integrity, trust, and hope that allows us to truly live.

May we learn to fail well so that we may live truly.

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