It's a thirsty place out there -- give the water only you can give.
“Should poetry push itself into the agoras of the world? No, poetry does not push. It is simply present, radiating its virtues, ” writes Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien in his book, Island of the World.
There is a lot of pushing going on out there today. And, if you’ve spent any length of time on social media platforms lately, your buttons are most certainly being pushed, too.
But what if each one of us made the decision to reject the entire idea of pushing, and we took a different approach altogether, one that “radiates virtue?” What if we said “no” to adding to the noise and instead looked to how we might present something beautiful to the world?
In ages past, during major conflicts, art and literature were usually the first things to be destroyed by oppressive regimes. Their motive was to destroy hope; to cut off the ability to dialogue with symbols, ideas, and stories. When we stop creating and instead merely regurgitate or mindlessly adopt the ideas of others, we all become the poorer for it and more polarized and susceptible to harmful ideologies.
Madeleine L’Engle, beloved author of A Wrinkle in Time, writes that as language for self-expression shrinks (i.e. we stop reading rich texts, using expansive vocabulary, etc.) the capacity to enjoy freedom also shrinks without us even noticing.
When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles — “We cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than ‘the way things are,’” L’Engle writes in her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.
Without creative expression, we can find ourselves trapped in an increasingly dualistic world where there are only two options: “pro” and “anti.”
So lean into your creative strengths right now and apply them with everything you’ve got.
If you’re a painter, paint for these times. If you’re an organizer, plan something that restores dignity where it is needed. If you’re a composer, let’s hear it. If you’re a speaker, speak from the heart to whomever will listen. If you’re a writer, pour out your heart on whatever platform you’ve got. And if you’re a listener, you are needed more than ever.
When we notice that people come away from us refreshed or inspired, we will know that we’ve found holy ground. The more we’re faithful to these creative moments, a happy side-effect will be the gradual recession of our own feelings of powerlessness and restlessness.
So don’t be afraid to present your giftedness as an offering to this chaotic world and watch as it soaks into the hearts of others, bringing relief and newness like rain in a parched garden.
Hope is the key to enduring any hardship