Thursday, May 21, 2009

the scientist and the artist

I was praying a few years ago, distressed at my desire to be a writer. I was telling God that there is something so beautiful about creation. That these people and stories exist in my mind, and I see it clearly as though it were on a screen, and I want desperately to show other people what I see… I was half defending myself, half pleading. I think I expected from God what I told myself:

This is impractical Kate, a foolish desire shared by millions of other starving artists…

But instead I thought something else. And the sheer magnitude of this thought, the freedom and delight in it could not have come from me:

You want to be like your Father.

I held my breath like I had just been kissed, and I had, in a way.

God used science as an artistic medium, the way I use a pen, or you use a camera or cloth or a stage. He Created. The quark was his paint and the human his art. I do not believe in the literal garden, but I do believe in a God that created and thought it was Good. And he gave us hands and lips and this ability to make Something from Nothing. And that desire is in us. I understand the desire for food and drink and sex and destruction by evolutionary instinct. But why would evolution give us something with only abstract practicalities? The animal kingdom has no need for art. Why do we? I think the desire to create and see art, the desire for beauty points to something more than eating and sleeping and continuing the species.

The Scientist and the Artist are socially two completely different creatures, but their gifting so similar: revealing to us the things of God. It amazes me that there were paintings in Picasso's head and music in Bach's ears. That my hand can barely hold a pen straight and the most beautiful things can come out of yours.

I am always nervous before I write. The entire process is so inexplicable to me, I am always afraid nothing will happen. But Something happens. Whether I have a muse to lead me there or not, there is Something Else in me, separate from my cognition, a mysterious Well to draw from- and out come words, scenes, life. Sometimes I think my words exist in me, before I think them. That I’m not really creating anything, just writing down what was already there, waiting patiently for me to look. There are poems waiting to be discovered inside of me. There are movie scripts and love letters and the rest of my mothers book, hidden somewhere behind my eyes.

So what is hiding in you?

What does creation look like in you?

Mine looks like a black lake.

This lake holds all of my movies, my T.V shows, maybe a few novels down at the bottom. Whenever I get an idea for a film, it is like looking at a black screen or a rippling lake. And then certain things start to emerge. Flashes of scenes, dialogue, character traits. Then all of a sudden the lake is a movie screen, I can play out scenes in perfect quality. My lake is shimmering with ideas currently. This one came alive today:

I want to write a music video about the creative process in artists. A painter seeing a painting, on the side of a building, the sky, then finally a canvas. A writer who gets a phrase (since we hear only music, I think it would be cool to have him thinking about his poetry- scrawled in his handwriting on the screen) and we see him writing poems, scribbling it out, writing it again. A photographer who sees pictures as they happen- an intimate moment between a father and daughter is slow and sharpened and he captures that moment in his mind if not his lens. Even something as seemingly simple as fashion: a woman who takes in everything everyone is wearing, but certain things stand out, literally. The cut of a dress, a necklace, a way of wearing a scarf. These things are sharper and more in focus and represented into her own clothing choices the next day.

I do want to be like my Father. I want to create and encourage other artists and scientists. This is the closest to God we can get. I believe that God exists outside of time, and so all art has already been seen and created by him first- but I think he gets excited for us, he roots us on. He sees the poetry and the great american novel and trends and pictures inside of us.

What is hiding in you? I'd like to see it, read it, listen to it.

What does the creative process look like to you?


  1. Suggested Reading:

    Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

  2. This is so beautiful, and encouraging, since I've had a very dry spell with writing lately.

    I love this thought:
    "The quark was his paint and the human his art."