It’s -30C outside this morning. Normally I would go to shul on a Saturday morning, but not even the Rabbi can get me out there today. So, I put on some coffee, a bit of Sting, and sit down with this week’s Torah portion. And what an outstanding decision I made.
It’s all about G-d calling the Israelite artists to come with the tools of their trade to build and decorate the Tent of Meeting. No doubt Exodus 35 must have been written for me….
A friend wrote me this week and wondered if I would be interested in leading a painting retreat. I immediately said yes. There have been many people who’ve told me they would like to learn to paint from me and I thought this would be a great way to kickstart some private instruction as well. And in a retreat setting it’s so easy to convey the work of painting and the profound spiritual task that it is. So, we are headed to the mountains tomorrow to plan the retreat and see what we can do. It will be in the Rocky Mountains, one of my most favourite places….
I love how G-d puts such importance on the work of artists. How integral we are to worship, thought, introspection, and growth. What a gift it is to be given these abilities, to share with others, and to spread the peace and insight we find there. We are essential to the work of the Spirit.
This doesn’t mean I have all the answers and my life certainly isn’t always rosy. Sometimes peace is extremely difficult to find, and sadness and darkness can often feel so engulfing. But there are remedies, and often the work we’ve been given provides those answers. I saw something written by a Holocaust survivor this week. A woman who said, the opposite of depression is expression. It’s in the process of creating, of making art, of using our gifts, that we find relief from so many of the things in our culture that can bring us to our knees.
I know when I paint that loneliness is banished. When I share what I’ve done that it touches other people too. When I listen and do the creative things I know I am supposed to do, I am happiest. And when it is put out there, I find out that it reaches deeply into the hearts of others and helps them somehow. It helps them in many of the same ways it helps me. I am lifted up, renewed, enlightened really… and so are they.
No matter what gift or talent we’ve been given we MUST use it. It is our calling. It’s what we have been given by the Divine to do with this life we have. Musicians, painters, writers, architects, actors, artisans, crafters, chefs… all of us are here to share, and to share bravely. To speak with whatever voice we’ve been given. To speak into one another’s lives. To fill one another with what we know, and what we are learning, and even what we don’t know, what remains mystery, what we find ourselves parsing over and over again to try to understand. Even if we share those things that can’t be answered, we share it and thereby relieve the load we might be carrying on our own.
There is no other way to create community. We are here for each other. In a world that in many ways wants to separate us, divide and conquer, we are given the gifts to create something better. Real community. Real connection. Togetherness that fills and sustains us. Growth that is lasting. And real meaning for the purpose of our lives. I hope what I’ve shared through my art so far has done something good for someone. And I hope I get to continue to share it. While speaking into my own life, that it continues to speak to others. That somehow, even if I never meet you, that the pebble in the pond spreads far and wide….and we create our Tent of Meeting anyway.
(Banner Painting: Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park)