Of Creatives and Their Work


The quote above had only been posted to a Whatsapp group I’m part of for all of an hour before it set off a firestorm. The bone of contention was Anais Nin’s body of work, (probably rightly) deemed inappropriate for the context in which it was posted (it’s a group filled with the super spiritual folk I serve alongside on my church’s tech and media team).

I made a spirited attempt at defending the value of her body of work – risque subject and bohemian lifestyle notwithstanding –  a position which left me just short of getting my knuckles rapped. I started typing a lengthy response in the group but did the sensible thing and backed off, taking the time to ponder what I felt was a wider philosophical question: can an artist’s lifestyle be decoupled from their body of work? Or even certain elements of that body work?

I think the answer has to be Yes. I’m a firm believer that one can learn from anything; good, bad or indifferent. This is perhaps never more obvious than in the context of words which can – and should be taken on their own merits, untainted by the trappings and baggage of their author. The test of the validity – and usefulness of words for learning – should be if they clarify any objective realities and are true in any sense of the word. Sometimes, the learning value can be unintended but the point has to be that by drawing a line and proscribing certain works because of their authors, we lose part of the vitality of a robust conversation. For what it’s worth the biblical Solomon lived as wanton a life as could be, one so enamoured of the female body that he warehoused a thousand of them but did manage to contribute two books to the bible, both which are replete with absolute gems which shine a light on human behaviour. His enduring quality has to be the cynicism and candor with which he reflected on life.

Lesson learned – to always consider the wider context and the audience before sharing stuff – I have lived to fight another day 🙂

#28 – Of Discipline and Direction

#28-spiritual disciplines for the christian life

The only road to Christian maturity and godliness passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. I will emphasize that godliness is the goal of the disciplines, and when we remember this, the Spiritual Disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery

Donald S. Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

#CurrentlyReading

Arthur Ashe on God and religion

Arthur Ashe’s moving memoir ‘Days of Grace’ ends with a heartfelt letter to his (then) six year old daughter Camera in which he unpacks all the things he suspects his illness will deny him the opportunity of telling her in future. Covering a range of categories from the importance of family, racial discrimination, loss, marriage, money and even faith, it reads like a distillation of many years of living and learning. The section where he talks about faith and religion reads like a primer for a balanced,  liberal, yet essentially Judeo-Christian worldview. Excerpts below:

…have faith in God. Do not be tempted either by pleasures and material possessions, or by the claims of science and smart thinkers, into believing that religion is obsolete and that the worship of God is somehow beneath you. Spiritual nourishment is as important as physical nourishment, or as intellectual nourishment. The religion you choose is not as important as a fundamental faith in God.

… Beyond the different dogma must be the sense of yourself as created by God for a purpose, and as being under God’s law at all.

… Be ruled by that rule called golden; do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Do not beg God for favours. Instead, ask God for the wisdom to know what is right, what God wants and the will to do it.

A profile of the man and his wife’s thoughts on losing him in ’93.

Al Mohler on Vocation

A few weeks ago, ‘Jane Doe’ prompted some deep thinking by Single Nigerian, leading him to ponder if trying now and then was enough when others had sacrificed things (even their lives) to ‘get the word to the common man.’

I was listening to an old message by Al Mohler  – Being Men and Raising Men [mp3]  – whilst walking to work today,  and a section [begins at 51;11] struck me as being a very apt answer to that question.

Money Quote:

The disconnect between labour and reward is one of the most unbiblical manifestations of the confusion of this culture. We must teach our sons that they are expected to work, and that labour is by God’s design followed by reward. And the reward is more than money and more than material;  it is the satisfaction in a man’s heart of knowing he has done something to the glory of God.

There is the temptation for some men to say, “You know, I can see what he does.  He gets to do great things  for the glory of God, the world gets to observe him and see him in what he does, the church gets to celebrate that, but all I do is this! ”

Whatever you do, do to the glory of God……. There are no little people, there are no little places, there are no little jobs in the kingdom of God. You will never know what life you were touching by your honesty as an accountant, by your steadfastness as a police officer, by your integrity as a teacher. You will never know how the glory of God is shown until in eternity you are given a glimpse of how God worked through you.