Art as Entrepreneur (Part 5)

Art creates melodies that run through our minds when we wake up. It creates images that we dream about. It creates imaginary worlds that we see our own existence through. Art haunts our world with another.

That’s why it is so powerful. It gets beyond our rational defenses. It gets seeded deep into our imaginations. There is almost breeds without our permission. It clones and spreads and before we know it there is a mutiny.

Why is this melody stuck in my head? Why am I so drawn to this or that movie? What about this picture is so compelling? We don’t even know. Our rational mind can not figure it out. It’s because someone else is in charge for the moment.

That someone else is the imagination. The imagination, fueled with the great art, is given a certain power to take off and run with things. This may be scary, but we can trust the imagination, even though it does not seek our permission.

The imagination is our ability to dream about a world that could be. It helps us remove barriers that are not really there. It helps us to see an enduring world that actually is, somewhere, just not yet. Imagination inspires vision.

Without it we are restricted to what is. We are forced into a limitation that is self-imposed, but carries the weight of universal banishment. We see something as impossible. It is. We must strategically fight this false impulse.

Imagination always believes. It endures the insults expected for one who sees what others do not. It literally is that: seeing a world that is not yet. It is not science fiction as much as vision, or the ability to see into the future.

Ok, imagination is basically time travel to a preferred future. It is the catalyst to a road there that otherwise would not exist. We don’t create that road, we discover it, but only as we allow ourselves to see that future end. See it!

Of course it is possible that our imagination gets out of line, so out of touch with life that it becomes a distortion of reality. But that is not really imagination at that point, it is fantasy, specifically escapism. It is avoidance of reality.

True imagination is not the ignorance of reality, it is the full acceptance of it and through it. It is seeing a life possible within and without it. It is life fully realized, current reality fully redeemed. It is everything we think that life can become.

Some will certainly see it as wishful thinking. They would be wrong. That is something entirely different. At best, it is imagination that is completely lazy. More accurately it is the lack of thinking, or at least the lack of imagination.

Pure imagination is beautiful, a ride into the truest forms of reality. Real stuff. Stuff that has been created. It came from imagination. We came from imagination. Life has always come from imagination. It is a beautiful gift of God.  

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 3)

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 3)

Without art we lose beauty. Art is the ability to find and translate beauty. Beauty is hope. Beauty is always around but not always available. She can be quite elusive at times. Artist must follow her and remind us all that she is still alive. 

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 2)

This work requires we take the long view of things, and a humble one. It’s easy for the artist to inflate his importance to the world. Like any field, dominance in that field is quickly mistaken for dominance worldwide. We forget our niches. Even the greatest of songs will ultimately be relegated to the place of background music. Great art masterpieces will be used to dress up a living room. They will be forgotten, or at least under-utilized, or perhaps rightly utilized.

Think for a second of the shoe-maker (or cobbler). They make good, sturdy shoes that protect our feet and hopefully keep them comfortable. They provide humanity a great service, one that is completely taken for granted regularly. What if providing the world a great song or a great piece of visual art is really more like making a great shoe (not even so much in the fashion sense). Through artistry, integrity, and commitment we can provide great pieces that will be put in a closet. In other words however important a work may be at one time it will not remain that for long, especially in today’s world. The reality is that humans can only consume so much, and for so long. After we absorb something we have to move on.

The artist, fortunately, is the same. He or she must move on as well. He must find a new thing to say, a fresh reality to explore and articulate. Like the consumers, the artist can only live with and under a certain creation for so long before moving on.

Of course certain works make it into a category of “transcendent,” which means at its core that a work is timeless, or breaks normal cyclical rules about consumption. It has a sense of timelessness, or “staying power” - longevity in its connective power. But those are exceptions, and even those have cycles of use and re-use. The reality is that we are creating consumables, things enjoyed (consumed), and then forgotten, at least for the moment. Lasting impact, though, may have already happened.

That is the magic really of art (and all created things really): we will never totally know there intrinsic value. No matter our attempts to measure outcomes we will never accurately know how our pieces effected others, let alone ourselves.

How can we know the reality of a world without our works? Even the slightest influence of a background song my have changed the nature of reality for one big decision. Let’s be honest, it usually is the small things. Art may be one of those small things.

Ours is ultimately not to know the value of intangible things. Inner compelling may not be justification for some people, and certainly for some pieces, but it ultimately must play a part in the value of art, if not for the artist.

In our valuation of art we mustn't forget to measure its effect on the artist. What might life look like for the artist without his art? What would happen if an artist did not have a creative outlet? What would spoil and turn rotten within him?

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 1)

There are certainly enough social evils and enormous problems in the world to keep good-hearted people busy for a few lifetimes. What we can do to help is almost as limitless as the problems themselves. So much to do. And the problems are legitimate. They are serious. They are felt, currently. They are being experienced by someone right now. And I, potentially, could do something about it. The fact that I’m thinking about it makes it so.

In light of this incredible human capacity to care, to innovate, and to help, how could we not spend our time actually doing just that? How could we waste our precious little here sorting out emotional details within us, narcissistically looking inward?

And that right there may be the right question about the nature of art. Is art, by its very nature, inward focused on the artist’s own journey only? Or, is art, by nature, focused on the real world around all of us and the human problems we all face? Have you seen the documentary Conflict yet on Netflix?

Maybe some will point out that might be one and the same. In other words, the inward journey of an outward focused person who is wide aware will and should reflect the struggle in us all to make a positive difference. It may be more direct than we think.

Think of it, who does not struggle first inwardly? It could be argued that all of man’s battles start inside. If we, no since we as artist’s get to address such internal tensions do we not have an amazing capacity and power for change? Ok, we may not directly be effecting human lives in desperate need, but indirectly we could be softening the hearts of those that could, and encouraging the hearts of those that do. And, of course, we are not only an artist anyway.

What if we were to think of a piece as an address to a group of humanitarian workers? How would the message translate? Or, what if were addressed to the people who were actually suffering. Would they understand or resonate with it?

And maybe, at the end of the day, there is not really that much separating the sufferers from the helpers. In other words, those are physical needs are so apparently different, our emotional or soul level existence is ultimately one and the same.

On a different scale we all deal with figuring out what to do, wondering if we are doing the right thing, trying to do what’s best, pushing ourselves to great extremes at times in order to. We all struggle with human existence in similar ways. And perhaps that is art’s great contribution to the human race. Perhaps it is what reminds us that we are ALL on the same journey, just at different parts. Sure some will refuse to go along with life but even those consequences are universal. There may be a hierarchy of needs, but sooner or later we are dealing with ourselves. Once and if we get to food and shelter, then we have plenty of other problems to deal with.

The good news is, we can endure and even enjoy them together!

The Art of Rhythm (Part 3)

The Art of Rhythm (Part 3)

Why are we obsessed with towers? With building up? Sure, limited space is often an issue and perhaps an initial concern, but there’s more. Think of church steeples, clock towers, and other buildings painting the modern skyline.

We love to look upward. We love to see the limitless space of the sky. The sky reminds us, no matter our theological bent, there that is more. There is hope. There is room to grow (even in the most crowded of cities). We have options.

Like the Old Testament tale of the people building a tower all the way to heaven. How could such primitive culture with such limited tools build such a thing? Why would they bother? What did it really represent? Was it defiance or exploration?

Perhaps it is best explained as too much too soon. But what about now? As we survey any modern city we see the same efforts to get beyond the crowdedness of earth to the limitlessness of the sky. We are wired to long for a city in the sky.

It is this inclination toward expanse and space that drives us to new and creative solutions. It is this hunger for peaceful space that drives us toward initiative. It is our desire for peace that drives us to look up and find hope.

The sky, or the heavens, also drive us toward rest. They represent a timelessness. Anyone who has ever flown and looked out the window knows this to be true. Above the clouds there is just something very different. Very still.

Sometimes when life is draining and the problems overwhelming, the sky is our only hope. Of course most religions understand God to be in the heavens, safely detached from the chaos of this world, dispensing hope to those who seek it.

The Christian God is unique in that He is both detached and resting (since the 7th day) but also working for us (Christ interceding for us) and also here with us (in the Holy Spirit). He represents everything we need for a God to be.

Still 2/3 of the Trinity is not currently on earth. The Lord of the Air or the Prince of the Age is not God or Jesus, it is usually the Evil One. So earth generally is seen as the domain of the One who causes chaos, strive, lies, murder, grief, etc.

And they are abundant. The wickedness of the world is breathtaking. Seeing the homeless out and about reminds us there is a kink in the system. There are losers. And they usually “stain” the shopping districts of big cities ironically.

The problems quickly seem overwhelming. The whole system is holding on by a thread. Yes, it is. That’s sort of the point: take away electricity, demand credit payback, cure cancer, a whole system topples over in days. We are hanging by a string.

It’s no wonder we are drawn to the sky. It’s no wonder we look elsewhere for help. If it is only this world hope may truly be illusive. How do we push through? Endure another day without the sky? This is not it. We are not alone.    

The Art of Rhythm (Part 1)

The Art of Rhythm (Part 1)

Ok, once we have learned the art of enjoyment, contemplation, and entrepreneuring, we must learn the art of putting them in their proper places. Which gets our attention and focus at what times? How do we know when to do what?

This is where rhythm is essential. Anyone of the these good things out of proportion becomes a bad thing. Too much entrepreneuring without enjoyment leads to burnout. Too much enjoyment without contemplation leads to excessiveness.

Too much contemplation without entrepreneuring leads to spiritual laziness. These things in proper alignment can do unbelievable good in a person, small group and community. How do we begin to put them in their proper order?

Which comes first in other words? Contemplation. We must start by honing the ability to see and hear. Life is very short. Unfocused goals means distracted work. Most people never make it out of the dock with clarity of vision, the result of contemplation.

Once we begin discovering our vision (it is already in there), we are not invited to navel gaze in the cloistered protection of paved roads and street signs. We are lured off the map, out of our comfort area (that which we know), to a whole new thing.

This transition phase of getting off the map to get on it again is sometimes called entrepreneurism. It is the visionary starting to do something before it is absolutely clear. It can not be that clear. It has not been done (no mater how clear the business plan is).

We go into the woods. We go into the desert. Think of Jesus for a second. He enters the desert at the age of 30. Does he not already know his life’s vision? Does he not already have a strong sense about the direction he should go?

Yes, of course. Then why the desert? He knew, but he didn’t know. True discovery requires a certainty that is not available on the map. It requires that we get free. It requires that we absolutely lose all false senses of self we thought were us.

Only that kind of freedom can prepare us for the ride ahead. Once we are truly freed from the mirages and open to the creative Spirit’s work inside us, great things begin to happen. We begin to hear a Voice we had not heard before.

This Voice begins to teach us about rhythm and patterns. We learn from following within earshot of that Voice. The Voice is luring, comforting, yet exciting and new. Although we are protected the Voice sometimes leads us out of comfort.

The Voice definitely has a bigger agenda than only us. Learning to listen to it is not a burden or a chore, it is actually a privilege and honor. Somehow it doesn’t feel like following. It almost feels like we are partnered with the Voice in a single yoke.

The Voice awakens us to ourselves again and again and again. The call awakens and enlivens us. It brings us back to life literally. It animates us, inspires us, encourages us. We have hope in earshot of the Voice. We are tethered to Life by it. 

The Art of Engagement (Entrepreneurism)

The Art of Engagement (Entrepreneurism)

I love ideas. Ideas can generate some serious excitement. Practically everything we can see in the world started as an idea in someone’s head. That is unbelievable. Yet ideas, without action, can lead to a debilitating sort of lostness.

Some ideas are worth pursuing. When you happen to stumble upon one you don’t really have the right to negotiate its existence. Your discovering it in some way beholdens you to seeing it out of your head and into this world. This process can be excruciating. Recall the idea:

  • Where did it come from?
  • Did you create it or discover it?
  • If you discovered it, whose idea is it?
  • Is there a sense of inevitability about the idea?
  • Would the idea find another birth sponsor if not you?

Ideas are powerful. They change everything. Mao understood that. Unable to get the people of China to adopt the ideas of communism he realized he had to write it out and “sell” the book to young people. The idea found a way out of his head.

Some say great ideas will make a way for themselves. Some say who carries and ultimately delivers them to the world is relative to their ability and more their willingness to listen and do as the idea leads. If not, the idea will find another carrier.

This is the exciting part of the deal. Ideas are time-sensitive. They do expire. Certain ideas are for certain times, and need to come out. If they are bottle-necked by someone’s refusal to cooperate they will simply find another way. We are on the line in other words. We have to be ready. We have to be willing to go where it leads. If we insist on dictating to the ideas how they should go it may seal the deal we are not really capable. We must hold them very loosely.

**Some think entreprenuering is sheer will power, ultimate manifest-destiny. Entrepreneurs are people who simply will or choose to make their idea a reality. We give a lot of credit to the person, but often forget about the idea.

Our biographies salute and almost canonize people who have made their dreams a reality. There is something amazing about them, but it’s not without their intimate connection to the dream that inspired them, a dream that was not them. Why did “that” dream become their pursuit? Why did “that” dream trump all others to become the thing worth doing? In other words, was there something inherent in the dream, the idea, the belief, that actually deserves the credit for inspiring the work?

The answer: yes!

The power of entrepreneuring is not so much in the process of doing the stuff to make it happen. Anyone can follow those steps. The magic is having the right vision and learning to listen to the One who gives such visions.