What are we trying to heal, anyway? The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt. (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, pg. 48)
Play hurt. As long as you are living, you will be broken. Some part of you will be weak. You can’t eliminate the pain, but you can participate in the process of it being redeemed.
That’s a daily choice for me – choosing to play hurt. But I think the opposite of it inevitably leads me to bitterness or apathy. So playing hurt may not be the easy choice. Or the comfortable choice. But, I’d rather limp along in pain than sit idle in bitterness.
Honestly, I’m not so sure that YOU can heal you anyway. I think we’ve got to keep walking and, in doing so, participate in a process that will find us on the road to healing 6 months, 18 months, 2 years from now.
Don’t wait to be whole before walking alongside a friend who is also broken. Don’t wait to be perfect to write that book you’ve been waiting on, paint your next piece, take your next photo, write your next song. Believe that your creativity comes from a place in you deeper than your pain. And that your pain makes your creativity richer as it flows out through that place.
It’s Sunday evening. A pleasantly cool spring breeze drifts in through an open window. 12 no longer strangers, not yet friends have broken from conversation to indulge in what, for many of them, is a first love. Some are trying to make it, others gave up on that dream long ago, & still others never wanted that in the first place. But for this moment in time music brings them together.
In a city like Nashville where at times it seems that every second person you meet is a “wannabe rockstar,” social gatherings can be filled with a lot of pretense. You may be picturing a room full of these “wannabes” & thinking that’s no place you’d want to be. I wouldn’t either.
But every so often, you stumble upon true artists. Musicians who are not only extremely talented but who would create music even if they never earned a penny from it. Musicians who write songs & pick up an instrument because it’s in their blood. Music is art for them & art is life. Put people like this…people to whom music is sacred…in a room together & pretense disappears.
Those are moments like that Sunday night when strangers, united by a love of music, become friends. Moments when each artist’s talent is celebrated. When it’s not about a spotlight but about collaboration…a challenge to see what kind of a freestyle song the group can create together…in the moment. A song that will likely never end up on any record or be sung from any stage. Yet it is art. Perhaps even art in its purest form.
This pure art is what inspires me. It’s what makes the hair on my arms stand up, takes the breath out of my lungs, & leaves me fighting back tears. And when I stop to think about why I’m left with one answer: vulnerability. In those moments of raw creation emotions are vulnerable, hearts are put on the line. It seems to me this group of almost friends understands the sacredness & beauty of such moments, & doesn’t take their power lightly.
It’s experiences like this that remind me at my core why I believe in the power of beauty & art. Why I believe that beauty & art are sacred gifts. And why I believe that we as artists have a responsibility to employ them.
What is the relationship between art & pain?
Gary Molander posed that question a few months back on his blog & it’s been bouncing around in my head ever since.
I believe that pain may be one of the greatest catalysts for art we will ever know. When we feel pain we are alive. And pain most often leads to brokenness. There, our hearts are exposed. And we create from a place of vulnerability & truth. A place of honesty where we get out of own way. Where our masks have been shed & we have less to protect.
We create in those moments because we can’t not create. Because we know of no other response than to paint or write or dance or sing. And the result is art that embodies brokenness & grace. Suffering & joy. Redemption & restoration. Art that cries out desperately for the Kingdom that is to come but that lives in the hope of the Kingdom that is here.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of history’s great artists also suffered much. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that artists are stereotypically “emotional” or “moody.” I think God has wired artists to feel more intensely than most & He’s given us that as a gift to propel us to create. To create art that reflects His constant work of creating beauty out of our ashes…wholeness from shattered pieces…life from pain.
Do you think there is a relationship between art & pain?