I just finished a painting. It took me all of an hour. I suppose one might call it abstract, or perhaps experimental. But what it really was, was therapeutic; not in the sense that it was meant to express, let alone cure, some deep seated anxiety or fear or such thing. No, this was therapeutic in that other ancient meaning of therapy, which is “to serve” (found in the Christian Bible in Acts 17:25 wherein we witness the Greek antecedent for “therapy” to reference serving the gods). Therapy, then, can do a service and the end served in this instance was a little joy, which came about as I painted for a bit without thought of subject matter. I was in the moment, happy to wash colors around the canvass without the need to represent an image or express a feeling. It was really about seeing colors brush up against colors.
Sometimes I need to explore doing per se, and bracket the point of the doing. Sometimes I ache to rediscover the joy of color, of shape, of sound, of word. Perhaps you too experience that desire to create without purpose beyond creation. There is a certain euphoria that arrives with that license to attend to the physicality of sight, sound, smell and touch. We are, after all, sensual people who live into the world by way of bodies that only know the world at the edge where I end and it begins. Of course, edges are permeable and so I know, in the adventure of being open to the world, that as I go out into the world the world makes its way into me, in a fashion.
So, what of this world? It is loved by the divine yet it can shipwreck our faith. It provides fodder for the sacraments yet can pollute piety. The world is a dangerous place yet sacred writ reminds us that the pivot that is change rarely occurs in sequestered sanctuaries where all is at peace – although such places, too, have a place in the life of the faithful. Deserts, oceans, mountains, highways; these are the sites of insight. We need to be “out there” – in the world by interaction and in the soul by creativity – to be fulfilled. Creativity is a mode of adventure. The word adventure, for good purpose, has hidden within it the Latin word venire meaning “to come.”
We “come to” in creativity: we come to our senses as a source of freedom. Creativity frees us to be curious, and to wager a better me, a better world by being in the moment, by being in the canvas, on the page. These three seem to come together for great purpose: therapy, creation and curiosity. In their interaction we take leave of self-obsession to the end that we can finally be more authentically. And so I know that my painting might not be great, but when I look at it I see me, smiling.