Art: Living in the Question

U2 has been a long time favorite of mine when it comes to music. There is a raw authenticity to their songs. To me, they exhibit that bare naked honesty I spoke of yesterday, especially when it comes to their faith. That honesty is most striking to me in its unabashed questioning. For example, in the song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, the lyrics make a profound declaration of faith. It says,:“I believe in the Kingdom Come. Then all the colors bleed into one, bleed into one, but yes I’m still running. You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame. Oh my shame. You know I believe it.” Yet another clear declaration follows that one. “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

I remember reading a young man’s question in a forum a few years ago. He was wondering if it was OK to listen to U2. I still remember the response that was given. A man, possibly a pastor given the context, told him it was indeed OK, but he counseled him to be careful. His reasons stemmed from a recognition of the questions in their music. Questions like the one implied in the lyrics I quoted above. Here is a declaration of a gospel faith, believing in Christ and the coming Kingdom of God, but also a yearning for something more. A search for something that goes deeper. Sadly, I’ve known far too many people who are terrified and threatened by that question. For me, I am more than ever before, living in that question. Believing, but at the same time, knowing there must be more, and I want it. That is not always a comfortable place to be, and I can say from experience that is has led me down some paths that would make some “Christians” uncomfortable and cause them to question if my faith is real at all. That doesn’t really bother me all that much. I’ve also wondered if my faith is real on more than one occasion.

The thing is, hiding from these questions won’t make them go away. I think that it’s only in embracing the questions that we can find truth, and sometimes that means living in a mystery. When it comes to God Infinite, there is no way to know and comprehend Him in His fullness. To think we can do so is pure hubris on the part of man. So we struggle and search and hope and trust.

So, what does all this have to do with art? Well, this is the second thought from last week’s meeting. Artists are far more comfortable living in the question. I think that art is often, and maybe should always be, a quest for knowledge. The work itself represents a moment in the journey. For that reason it is sometimes an answer, sometimes a question, and sometimes something much bigger and wholly other. When we try to distill it into being something else or fake it, we lose something in the process. That is an important lesson for me. You see, until recently I’ve felt like my art always had to be the answer. That perfectionist demon I bear within me whispering in my ear that the message must be right. The problem is, I don’t even know the perfect answer, and I probably won’t. How can I share what I don’t know or understand? And, as I sit here writing, I also realize that giving answers is rooted in others. So long as I’m giving answers, I don’t have deal with my own questions, my own struggles, my own reality, my own problems. It’s a rather safe escape, but it’s a shallow art.

So I must learn to be as comfortable creating in the question as I am becoming in living in it. That means sharing the struggle and the journey in the act of creation. We are meant to be a people of community, and it is in sharing the path that we often find, or are given, our answers. But in order to do this, I have to be vulnerable and honest, willing to look a fool if that is what’s required to gain truth. That if I myself do not learn, maybe someone else will gain wisdom from the example. Who knows? Either way, it is important to become able to live in the question, acknowledging the journey in hope of discovering some truth. Artistic creation is part of the journey. I hope to find freedom to be as open with my questions as my answers, even when the answer may be a lifetime in coming.




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