". . . for the artist."
Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "A life lived in chaos is an impossibility for the artist." Tonight I was flipping through the many tabbed and dog-eared pages of Walking on Water and enjoying notes written in it over the past 10 or so years, when I happened to open to a page lacking in any of those markings yet there at the top was this quote. How strange to find it!
Strange because I have it written somewhere and every time I see it I find it upsetting. That is until tonight. Oh, the beauty of context and time! Stumbling across it I now see how it makes sense and holds true (I also found that I had left out "for the artist" which is quite key to the purpose of the quote). All the years that I have read it I never wanted it to be true. I have lived in a state of chaos for so long. Clung to the notion that life is a sort of controlled chaos and that since chaos, or at best controlled chaos, is all I know so this cannot be true. For me it is more than a state of being, it is what I am. It is me.
Controlled chaos is how my high school art teacher described me. During the critique of our final projects, self-portraits, she looked at mine and said that it did very much describe me. That in concept this fractured picture (a painting on the top page cut open in the middle to reveal a layered and messy self on the inside page), and my identity are like a Van Gogh, expressing a controlled chaos. So this quote from my beloved Madeleine L'Engle has always been vexing. If it was true then what I thought was one thing is very much not, the entire concept ultimately misunderstood. And much, much worse, it felt like that means that the fractured girl I presented in my senior year of high school was describing a brokenness that not was not a place to live, yet I still identify with it in my adult-self. And that all of that means that Patty Post's words that were so magical, have turned sad and I am more stunted than before. (That's a lot of power to give to 8 words!)
Though perhaps I have been wrong. Perhaps it is both a trap and a construct. A prison that I have built for myself. A fairy-tale'd existence in a child's mind that is more Rapunzel's isolating and door-less tower, than the fantastic world I find in Van Gogh's skies or the cobblestoned street of Cafe Terrace at Night. This type of existence is glued together by a belief that within the crazy there is a calm. But there isn't. In the calm there is a calm and in the crazy--in the chaos--there is a beauty of a million moments strung together as twinkle lights and swirling life, but those moments are pieces to the whole. They are not the whole and not all of our moments should live there.
I flee from the calm for it scares me. Yet I long for it. I must find my way to it. Summon the courage to choose CALM over CHAOS. Even though it is nearly always in motion and there is an ugliness growing as more and more I slip between an uncomfortable edginess with an increasingly upsetting land of exhaustion and disarray, and the cold damp bottom of the well (another story). The ugliness is still what I know and there is a safe-ness in that. However it is becoming much more work to live within it, not the good work. The kind where I am always treading water and losing the hopefulness that I need and that belongs inside me.
I have been to the calm and I love it there. But it takes a very different sort of work to get and stay. This includes discipline and focus. For me it has to start with the courage to truly move out of the crashing and consuming storm and into the present moment. Tonight I have started to believe that in the calm I may find the energy to create. Through the years and amid the madness that I thought once drove the artist in me, stifles her. I have all but stopped creating. Is it possible that walking out of the storm and into the stillness, will lead me to the home I yearn for?
I have glimpsed something in the calm, and I am starting the believe that it may be where I can again connect more clearly with my faith, and maybe even find the belief in a future (at all) that I have lost. Maybe I can walk my path in chronos time, yet dwell in kairos experiencing truth and beauty. Believing for myself the joy and hope I believe for others. I think I would like it there.
6 months ago