contributed by Andrea
One rainy morning last fall, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast with an old friend, when she shared with me something, something that I have chewed on off and on for the past months, but as of yet had not the time to draw all of my random musings into some sort of coherent idea. However, a conversation at church last Sunday seemed to bring a lot of these drifting inklings into focus. So it's here and forming, and this little post will be my attempt at sorting. This disclaimer aside, please forgive my wanderings as I wonder and write.
We have been friends for many years, but it always seemed that one of us was picking up and leaving as soon as the other returned from overseas. We had both now found ourselves settled in the city, and both tentatively moving in the direction of a less nomadic future (for the time being at least). She had just enrolled in school, after a long break, in the fine arts program at Langara, and I, after spending seven months living in India, had no intentions of going anywhere remotely interesting for a long time. For my part, sitting alone in a quiet room was all the adventure I needed.
She was sharing with me the passion and excitement she was feeling at school, her love of the arts and learning, and how inspiration was striking her in the most unexpected places. Myself, on the other hand bemoaned the fact that I could hardly bring myself to get out my paints, let alone find inspiration. I felt slow and devoid of anything one might label as 'creative'. All I do, I told her, is life, the normal stuff. Going to work, coming home, sleeping, cooking dinner, cleaning, baking bread... in the midst of this life maintenance, there was no room or energy left for art. I wondered if I had lost my creativity, if the inspiration would never return.
It was then that she shared with me a documentary she had watched, in school earlier that week. It was about the life and art of Mierle Ukeles, who in New York, during the 70's, explored the idea of 'maintenance art' ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ9GWlFZz1g ). Essentially, as far as my understanding goes, Mierle decided in her busyness of home making, that her every day tasks and chores were in fact 'art', and labeled them as such. In fact, she even went so far as to advertise a 'performance art' exhibit, in which she would be washing the steps of a New York art gallery from 2pm to 5pm, on June 13th 1974.
My friend then challenged me to change my perception of the everyday, of the mundane. Why not decide that my chores, that my job as a cashier were in fact my 'art'? Hm.
As I pondered over this in the following weeks and months of daily life, I began to see how scripture too, could be seen to support this idea. Ephesians 2:10 claims that “We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. God the master artist, has created us, indeed as co-artisans (as we are so often reminded by Nelson). And he has given us our 'art projects' along the way, to complete for his glory. I wondered, if these 'good works' that we have been given, are in fact what I always assumed. Is it just 'religious' stuff that falls under the category of my 'good work'? Of my appointed art projects? Hm.
I am then drawn to Colossians 3:17, which says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. In that respect well, then I suppose my cleaning the toilet, my making the bed and ringing people through my till, perhaps these can all be my art projects? The word 'whatever' is pretty all-inclusive, isn't it?
Now to the third and final part of my wandering (thank-you for bearing with me thus far), my conversation on Sunday, with Michelle. She had alluded earlier in the week she had a story to share with Kyle and I, and I was curious to hear what she had to say. Michelle shared how a close co-worker friend of hers, whom she loved dearly and had invited to Artisan on numerous occasions bought some furniture. The furniture she bought however, came from the company that Kyle works for (Kyle being in charge of the warehouse and organizing customer deliveries). Michelle and her friend made the connection and she shared it with Kyle and we laughed over the small world we live in. However, the story isn't over, please bear with the connections that follow... Michelle's friend's furniture needed some maintenance. So Kyle's co-worker, whom Kyle had often invited as well to Artisan, went to do the repairs. At her home, the two co-workers (of Michelle and Kyle) discussed how their two friends had been encouraging them to come to church. Michelle's co-worker encouraged Kyle's to attend Artisan. It was then that Kyle's co-worker began to share how impressed he was with Kyle. He shared three things with the her, which were later relayed back to Michelle, and then back to us on Sunday. Kyle's co-worker shared with Michelle's co-worker that:
a) Kyle is ALWAYS happy
b) Kyle LOVES his wife
c) his wife bakes him COOKIES!
We laughed as Michelle shared the story with us, but she went on to say how impressed her friend was with these facts that to us, just seem like normal life.
In the hours and days that followed, I wondered. I wondered about my chores, about maintenance, about art, about cookies and glorifying Christ in the everyday of life. I wonder that he can use me at home, alone with a cookie sheet, to be a light to Kyle's co-worker, and randomly (or not?) Michelle's as well. In the place of a tidy summary statement, I would be interested to hear what others think, can the mundane be art? Can good deeds really be so simple, with the right motivation? Hm....