I’ve been reflecting lately on the idea of beauty and abundance.
I was doing a lap of the local park, and in the (literal) heat of the moment, the idea to sit down and just watch the swans crossed my mind. It all happened so fast – Mary Oliver twittered in my head saying “Stay Awhile” (see below for the full poem) and no matter how hard my brain tried to override itself in order to choose a more efficient course of action – there I was, slumped upon a rock, gazing doey-eyed at a bunch of grey fluff balls and their necky parents, sliding across the lake towards me.
I know there’s a couple of things causing this brain override. I am someone with a scarcity mindset married to someone with an abundance mindset. That may not sound scary, but it is. Things like, taking your time, doing one thing at a time, being inefficient with rest periods, treating yourself and others, relaxing when you are home from work, using good quality ingredients outside of designated special occasions, generally just enjoying life. I’m telling you, it’s a dangerous (but delicious) road.
Other things that are changing my thinking are, the aforementioned Mary Oliver’s poetry and Makoto Fujimara’s Art + Faith – a Theology of Making (thanks to Praxis for a great book club looking at this).
Fujimara says: “there is not an iota of scarcity in ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ The God of the Bible is the God of abundance”
God’s lavish, expansive, detailed, abundant creation. So much excess, over the top, lush, sumptuous beauty – for what? For beauty’s sake. Beauty, for the sake of beauty. To be enjoyed, looked at, soaked up. There’s nothing efficient about that.
One question, asked in Fujimara’s book was ‘What have you made this week?’. His idea is that as New creations, when we make, we bring about something ‘New’ that is mysteriously part of the Kingdom of God. He also thinks this is really important to God suggesting that:
“God for some mysterious reason, waits upon human making and chose to use our ability to make bread and wine to reveal Jesus’s resurrected presence known at the table of the Eucharist.”
Isn’t that mad?! Our taking part and creating in the world is not only encouraged by God, it is necessary to Him. Sounds incredibly inefficient to me and reeks of an abundance mindset…
Jesus waits until we create, until we grow our crops, harvest them, make the bread, in order to reveal himself to us. Bread and wine don’t just exist on their own, readymade to be enjoyed, but rather are grown and cultivated and made by humans, working together over time. The crafts have been perfected, and usually require different craftspeople working together to create a finished product.
Our collaboration, and our making, are valuable to God, and can reveal God to the world.
So this is not just for artists, or sculptors or bakers. But it is for anyone who creates order out of chaos, who makes a meal to share with others, for bringers of clarity and hope, teachers, connectors, lovers, do-ers, each one of us every day, makes and takes part in the world, and God may be waiting for us to do just that, in order to bring hope to the world.
And so I have been asking myself that question. What have I made this week? The answer has varied from making my bed to making daisy-chains, from drawing on flip charts in my therapy room to painting something for a loved one, from family picnics to the cleaning of dishes and bathrooms, from making space to be “interruptible”, to making amends after an argument. In each I can see ways that beauty, love, hope and connection were fruits of my making, and also I’m trying to rest in the not-knowing of their purpose too.
Today I visited a ceramics exhibition, wandering through the space and admiring the variety of the pieces, the scale of some, those which were elaborate and ornate, those which were beautiful in their simplicity. There was no chance of confusing one ceramicist’s work with anothers, and even though their pieces were scattered throughout the space, within seconds even my untrained eye could notice the similar forms, styles and finishes and know immediately who had created what.
That was such a gift to me today, to realise how valuable our individuality in our making is. How wasted our time would be, should we spend it trying to create copies of one another, whether it be in the way we love others, follow our dreams, do our day job, or create and take part in the world. How necessary, my unique ‘me’ is, and your unique ‘you’ is. How God might be waiting for you to step forward in all of your ‘you-ness’ and me in my ‘me-ness’ so that together with Him we can ‘make something’ of the day.
Today I was grateful to the ceramicists for their work, for their ‘offering’ to the world, to each other as creators, to me, perhaps also to God.
I wondered what my offering will be tomorrow? What will yours be?
When I am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”