Lent and the Art of Listening

Artist, who are you?

What do you have to give?

Can you answer?

We are waiting for your strange and beautiful shimmer. Will you shine for us?

Perhaps you don’t feel shiny today. Perhaps you don’t know how to peel back your skin for the gold beneath. 

Perhaps there is too much noise for you to hear your heartbeat.

“The present state of the world, the whole of life, is diseased.
If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply:
‘Create silence! Bring men to silence.
The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.
Create silence.'”

Soren Kierkegaard

Enter Lent.

For artists, Lent is a journey well worth taking. A journey towards something powerful. 

Perhaps you are not religious. Perhaps you are not from a religious tradition that observes this 40 day period. 

For me, Lent is still new. Still exotic. I am still learning. But I need Lent. 

We artists have a keen eye for the broken. Kierkegaard diagnosed the disease as noise. Overcrowding. Static. This was 150 years before iPhones sucked our eyeballs from our heads. This was before TV in the waiting room. Before trashy magazines, even.

And before that, 2000 years before, Jesus needed to get away from the noise. Before internet or television or radio. Before industrialization. Before he set out about his calling, Jesus went out into the wilderness. He was tested there. Sifted. His purpose solidified. His identity strengthened. He learned to say ‘yes' and to say ‘no' at the right times.

His ‘no' became iron. His ‘yes' became fire.

Out in the wilderness Jesus heard his heart and the voice of God and he learned who he was to be. What kind of person. What kind of leader. What kind of Son.

I could use a bit of wilderness. A stronger ‘no'. A molten ‘yes'.

We artists and creatives soak up culture like a rock-dry spongue. We take it all in. We feast. We rearrange culure it into new, surprising combinations. Feasting is good. Culture is fuel. We cannot create from a vacuum. A void bears no fruit.

But the noise can be exhausting. 

I could never live in Times Square. 

We all need water, but no one needs to drink from the firehose.

Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, and every year many of us follow.

This year I am following with journal in hand.

I have two embarrassing confessions.

First, I don’t pray much. Not like I used to. Not like I’d like to. Every day I make attempts, but often get distracted mid-sentence. My mind wanders. I chase the noise. Rarely do I make time to listen. 

Second, I make time for video games and mindless internet surfing. I’ll sit on the couch, stacking virtual blocks or rearranging colours or telling plants just how to kill zombies. I’ll sit for 15 minutes and discover an hour has vanished. Or two. 

Why, when I am so desperate to hear the voice of God, do I toss my hours away like pearls to pigs? This is my choice. I have to own this.

I have to repent. To recalibrate. To reconnect. 

Last night was Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. A ritual or repentence.

We gathered at The Bleeding Heart Art Space to commit ourselves anew to our faith. To this journey. To listening and living fully. We had ashes placed on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. Ashes are for repentence. Mourning. Death.

I am putting the noise to death. Repenting. Turning another way. Lent is a yearly reminder that it is never too late. 

For Lent I am not giving up food. I’ll eat chocolate and drink coffee. But I will carve out a half hour every day for silence. I am handing over my time.

In my half hour, I’ll take 15 minutes to read. Scripture. Devotional reading. Then I’ll take 15 minutes to pray with my pen. I’ll write my prayers. 

Writing focusses the storm of thoughts into one bolt of lightning. I need that focus.

I need to hear what I am saying before I can hope to hear God’s voice and the call of those around me.

Artist, this Lenten season, create some silence. Hear your heart beating. Hear God’s whisper. Hear a good story about who you are and what you have to offer the world. Hear the voices of those around you, looking for conneciton and healing and hope. Create silence and make room for love to sit and stay a while. 

Feasting and fasting have their seasons. Fasting reminds us what is important. Giving something up reveals whether or not we ever needed it. Shows us how that thing is a blessing or a curse. Shows us where our treasure is and where to turn our eyes.

Shows us we can make choices.

Whether you are religious or not – whether Jesus is saviour or story-book for you – I think we can all get with Kierkegaard on noise. I’m calling all you creative souls to create something different from now to Easter.

Create silence. 

Who knows what might fill it?




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