If I climbed up
to the tippy-top of a tree,
and held out my bucket-
Could I catch the sun-drops,
and keep them with me…
…then share with others
at the base of the tree?
If any creative act, (be it visual, musical, theatrical, written or otherwise), is a definitively spiritual endeavor, then there are certain qualities to that activity that are common to all of us. For one, there’s a sense that a battle is going on. At the very least, the effort involved in climbing to the tippy top of the tree to pull down heaven is hard work and can be very exhausting.
Lately I have felt, alongside the exhilaration of creating, an increasing weariness. Participating in an art show, painting commissions, looking for and recording beauty can be very tiring in a manner different than other work tires. My husband read one of his incredible short stories to the students and faculty at my school where I teach. He recounted how exhausting that was, to offer his work “out there” in the world. As we drove home from this event, the weariness was palpable. Every time we talk to our daughter at college as she studies music, she is exhausted, pulling long hours in the practice room, theory tests, exams, and an unbelievable performing schedule. And my music educator friend, Sheri, told me in our swim team conversation, how tired and worn out she is at the holidays teaching music and performing in various holiday events in the area.
I am learning from a wonderful book by Steven Pressfield, that art is war. His book, titled, The War of Art, affirms the spiritual nature of our creative commitment to bring beauty into the world. He speaks in a martial tone, rallying us as if we artists are, in actuality, soldiers fighting a cosmic war. He outlines the weapons needed to pull down deep heaven, though he does not use that specific phrase.
The effort involves showing up to the page or canvas, doing our scales, honing our craft, working on technique, practicing, preparing. And then we must offer it, share it, put it out there, get in the ring or out on the dance floor, run the race, fight the good fight, never giving up no matter how beat down we may feel by critics, reviews, circumstances, or our own thoughts. We are to fight the resistance that comes in any form it may throw at us to keep us down, or out of the playing field.
Being engaged even on a small level in pulling down deep heaven is no mere trifling. It requires a soldierly mindset mixed with childlike mirth as we place one foot in front of the other up the tree, climbing ’til we reach the tippy top. The climb down may be harder…carrying what we have gathered there from the heavens, and then summoning the courage to share it with others. It requires miles and miles of walking or riding on a donkey to an unfamiliar town, to give birth to our heaven-sent burden in less than ideal surroundings and circumstances. We are to write, draw, paint, make music in and around our messy lives. None of it seems to go the way we imagined or think it should. I have a hunch Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have thought this as well. Yet we are to continue on this journey, like Mary and Joseph, until it is time. Time for what heaven wants to bring to us and through us, be it a babe, a sonnet, a drawing, a song.
May we have the martial spirit of Mary in our hearts and daily lives this season. May we be encouraged by the thought that our exhaustion in creative endeavors is due to the fact that we are in the fight: the calling and work of pulling down deep heaven.
I wrote the above several days before Friday, December 14th, the day someone entered a school in Connecticut with the express purpose of killing. Children, adults, his aim was all. If ever there was proof that a battle is going on, and that we need to engage in that battle to bring down the light of Deep Heaven to shine in these dark days, it is now.
Rise up, oh Artists of all kinds…Rise up and wage battle with the darkness! For we do not fight in vain!
*If you missed Part 1 of this series and would like to read it, click here.
0 thoughts on “Pulling Down Deep Heaven: Part 2”
One day, to paraphrase the bible, the barrels of guns will be beaten into something more useful. Until then we need to pray for those who need comforting, and send them all our love, and all work towards a future where guns have no place,and children can live their lives without the shadow of firearms.
This tragedy has touched everyone and suddenly made the world colder, poorer and more frightening.
Jen,I really dislike these martial metaphors. Art and the need to create are so different from the destructive impulse of war, and one of the greatest challenges to us as artists is to allow the art to emerge, not to fight to make it come out! sorry, this blogpost was a miss for this reader.
As a lifelong professional artist and amateur musician, I think that the impulse to create order and joy are so much more important than fretting over the energy it takes to get there. And the sheer work it takes is a great part of the joy. It’s not a war, it’s a collaboration.
When our weapons are peaceful ones (paint, song, dance, theatre) and when we wield them to hold out hope, to bring beauty and joy into dark places, we are pushing back the destructive forces that are at work in our world. We are not starting a war. We are responding to what is already going on, brandishing our creative swords to defend the innocent, to keep Light from being snuffed out, to point to and reveal Beauty that becomes difficult to see in the wake of horrors like what happened in Connecticut. Dear artist friend…you may not realize it, or even WANT it, but your art is a light, and is thereby pushing away the darkness. Art CAN be used for destructive purposes, I grant you. But when it is offered withthe hope that even one person might be drawn to it as to a flame, then we have entered the fight. Fight on, Liz, though you do not want to say it so. The world needs your artistry.
In Humble response,
I am a puddle, but putting on my combat boots.
“Catching and sharing the sun-drops”, is lovely. Next to art, it makes me think of a smile, a friendly word too.
My heart is heavy this morning after the news on Friday, also! Your thoughts of hope and peace reflected in your art are so inspiring!
Just as you are a teacher, I, too, taught for 43 years. The world is blessed by the lives of the principal, and teachers who gave their lives trying to protect children. We take up our weapons, the brush, the pen and hope to light candles in the darkness.
I so enjoy your lively colorful and expressive paintings and sweet poems. Bless you!
Thank you Elsi for your heart-felt words. They mean so much to me!