"The highest form of art is prayer" Jonathan Jackson writes in the opening of his book "The Mystery of Art", and I find myself nodding in agreement.
Ever since I was a little girl, the way I learned to still my mind, to focus most clearly, and to create was through drawing and creating art.
Day after day and year after year, I've gone back to that special place that making art creates, and only now as an adult to I understand that what it really is that I've been attracted to is the meditation, the prayerful centeredness of the act of 'making.' and when you open yourself up to it, it becomes something really wonderful, especially when you invite God to join you.
Of course when I think of 'art' I think of visual art, but what is so interesting about Jackson's book, a new publication from Ancient Faith Publishing, and Orthodox Christian publishing house, is that he explores many types of art.
Jackson is an actor, and I've honestly never considered the 'prayerfulness' of acting, but Jackson does a wonderful job in his writing in exploring and explaining how any and all acts of creating can become a religious experience. In any art, you as the artist becomes the instrument of creation--- whether you are speaking, painting, writing, sculpting, sewing or thinking.
He shares a great C.S. Lewis quote: "The first demand of any work of any art makes upon us is to surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (there is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out."
The best way I've found to approaching this book is to read a little at a time, and then mull it over. There isn't a specific narrative or story to be followed. It's broken up into sections of philosophical elements to mull over-- such as 'art as mystery', 'art as prayer', 'art as belief', 'art as sacrament and 'art as offering' and seems to be meant to be read in small sections to be digested before moving on.
This book is written with an Orthodox Christian audience in mind, but I think it has an appeal to artists of other faiths as well since the main discussion is so universal.
In his writing, Jackson ultimately discovers that every person is an artist--- no matter their vocation. We all create in some way. The enduring question to all of us, of course, is are we creating something that adds goodness to the world, or are our motives more self-serving? The meditations offered by Jackson are great ways to examine if what we're creating offers anything of real value and spiritual fruit, or not.
According to Jackson, "the role of the artist is to bridge this gap (of the sacred and the profane) and fill the world with grace."
All too often, I think, this world is filled with people whose end goal is money, status, power or fame. But if we are constantly looking to 'fill the world with grace' in place of these things....I think our lives and our world, will be much better for it.
If you'd like to read this book, it can be found in most major book retailers, including Amazon, and through Ancient Faith Publishing.