LIVING AS APPRENTICES
Let’s play a game. Who do you think of when I write the word artist? Maybe Rembrandt, Grandma Moses, or Ansel Adams? How about Mozart or John Philips Sousa or Frank Sinatra or Paul McCartney? What about Shakespeare or William Faulkner, John Grisham, or C.S. Lewis ?
Seth Godin, a man who re-imagines the world, would heartily agree with all of these suggestions. However, he would also include Steve Jobs, pioneer of the personal computer revolution. And the founder of charity:water, Scott Harrison, who created a different way to both raise money and help people in the under privileged world. He would include anyone who developed an iPhone app that changes the way we interact with each other or the device.
Godin says that because we are now a post-industrial economy and moving into “connections economy,” it is important to redefine what we mean by art. His definition of art contains three elements:
- Art is made by human beings.
- Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else (and perhaps the artist as well).
- Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and that generosity is a critical part of making art.
He goes on to say that art is a personal act of courage that requires bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. By his definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. The medium doesn’t matter; the intent does. The intent is to give something unique of one’s self that will have an impact on others. “Art, says Godin, “is what we’re doing when we do our best work.”
Everyone is an Artist!
So why spend all this time in a blog re-defining art? Because what Seth Godin describes is exactly what it means to live as an apprentice. Our master teacher, Jesus, was the ultimate artist when he lived on this earth. (Read the preceding paragraph and see if you agree. ) And because his spirit lives in each Christian heart now, each of us is an artist.
In order to accept this role, we have to jettison the false narratives we have carried about the word art: “I can’t draw,” “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” “I’m good with numbers not words.” “No one would ever consider me an artist.” “I’m just a _____; there’s nothing artistic in that.”
The new narrative is, “Whatever God has given me to do is a work of art. No one else can do that particular thing as well as I can. What I have to offer will change someone’s life – perhaps a lot of someones. I can collaborate with God and we can create such synergy that what we have to offer together will be something I never dreamed of. If I don’t share my art, the world will be missing something.”
This view of art probably will not bring the media to our doorstep. If it does, that’s what God intended. Though each person who sees the responsibility of being an artist in his or her workplace will make a difference, he or she probably won’t make a lot of money. Godin’s and Jesus’s challenge is to forget about be famous or wealthy but to bring who we are to the world as our contribution to the greater good.
I saw an example of this new vision of art last week. I was having coffee with a friend and she said, “I want to tell you what I’ve decided to do with my retirement hours!” Her excitement was obvious and her passion contagious. “When my daughter came home from a mission trip to Honduras, she told me that when mothers who have given birth leave the clinic, they often have to bring their newborns home naked because they have no clothing for them.”
At this point, my friend teared up as she said, “I can’t imagine not being able to clothe my new baby.” She stopped for a minute. “So!” she said, “I’ve decided to make onesies [a one piece outfit covering the body] for my daughter to bring along when she goes back to Honduras. Each time I complete one, I feel such joy!” When my friend makes a onesie, she is doing her best work and impacting the world. She is being an artist!
I recently completed a book. I wrote it because writing is what I do and because I had something to say. It may never be published; I may never earn a penny for six months of intense work. But it really doesn’t matter to me. I have shared the writing with others who have said they were blessed, and I will find other ways so more may be blessed. That’s God’s economy.
What is your art? How do you bring it to the world? Or how can you bring it to the world? The world needs what you have to offer.