Art, Creativity and Healing in the Streets of Nepal

In yesterday’s DM we considered the powerful role of healing and rejuvenation that art and creativity play in a time of struggle and darkness.  We offered several examples of how music and musicians heal us from sadness—not by sentimentally flying above the fray but by daring to take us deep into the truth of our condition and our souls . Not only to be-with the anger and frustration, the sorrow and the loss, but also to bottom out and take on new wings of creativity and possibility and hope.

The food bank staff of the Community Action Council in Lexington, KY, assemble bags of groceries for vulnerable community members. Photo from the Community Action Council website.

Where people suffer, where nature as a whole suffers, there arises an invitation to respond creatively and with imagination.  This via creativa, following on the via negativa, is the doorway to our prophetic awakening and commitment.  We interfere with sadness and darkness and share tools that touch the soul—music being a fine example—to return to what counts and to our capacity for caring.  I offered a few examples of the power of art to do these things.

Also this weekend I received a letter from Marianne Grosspietsch, the founder of Shanti, a community located in the slums of Lalitpur District in which she described what I would call the prophetic imagination and creativity that is addressing the coronavirus emergency in Nepal.  Americans, urged on by their often narcissistic media, can easily live only in our own world and be oblivious of other parts of the world, especially in what we call “third world.”  Marianne’s perspective is very valuable therefore.

Feeding the hungry in Shanti community. Photo provided by Marianne Grosspietsch.

Here are some of her observations.

Today I would like to uplift  your heart by sharing with you what I was told by our Shanti team in Nepal.

A very strict lockdown all over the country causes the poor to suffer beyond description.  All those workers, who earned daily wages, have not had any income for the past 7 weeks: the sweepers and the porters, the washerwomen and the garbage collectors, the taxi drivers and the construction workers, the farm laborers and the beggars, together with their children they suffer from hunger.

Shanti is stepping in and our wonderful cooks – together with the youngsters from our orphanage – prepare hot food . Today 350 people came plus 60 neighbors from the slum next to our centre. And the number is increasing, day by day.

One of the children of Shanti community. Photo provided by Marianne Grosspietsch.

Imagine how moved we were., when we offered our main cook some extra money for his immense work: Binai, the cook, said: “I am getting a good salary (150 US $ per month). You pay for my children‘s  education, I have a comfortable life, give to the poor outside. They suffer so much.”

One sees in this story more examples of art and creativity at work.  And with them new life and healing and hope.  One more example of how suffering brings out the best in humanity (and sometimes the worst).  How the via negativa is the fertile ground for the via creativa which in turn gives birth to compassion that marks the via transformativa.

For more about Shanti see  Donations are welcomed.

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

See also: Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

Banner Image: One of the Shanti kitchen staff cuts shallots. Photo from the Shanti-Leptrahilfe website.

Queries for Contemplation

Meditating on these stories from Nepal, can you add your own about the relationship of art and creativity to justice-making and compassion?

Recommended Reading

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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3 thoughts on “Art, Creativity and Healing in the Streets of Nepal”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for your always uplifting words and examples of creativity and compassion from so many diverse people and places around the world.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you, dear Matthew, for drawing attention to the most wonderful, compassionate helping hand, which the leprosy stricken patients of the Shanti community are extending to their hungry neighbors. By putting Shanti into the centre of awareness, you are creating a bridge between the patients, who were shunned by society since biblical times and the world around.
    I cannot describe the joy that overwhelmed the Shanti Family in Kathmandu, when the text of the meditation was read out to them, by Bijendra our junior manager. They saw the photos and felt united to the DM readers. The interest of the DM community and their financial support created a feeling of belonging in the Shanti members, unknown to them since the horrifying days, when they were thrown out of their villages, because of the stigma of leprosy or their handicap like polio. Ever since then the patients thought, they were cursed by the Gods, and should disappear into dark unknowingness.

    The very fact that they now could see their photos in the net, created a feeling of being accepted by the family of human kind, it felt like a kind of resurrection.
    This wonderful feeling of belonging uplifts their minds, dear Matthew, the compassion and appreciation of the DM community invigorates them and this will result in helping them to overcome their own anxieties. They will work even harder to ease the hunger pain of especially the children and the old people in the slums nearby. These destitute people would otherwise go without food, unless Shanti would distribute meals to them.

    I have no words to express our gratitude for the revolutionary change you have caused in the hearts and minds of the patients, which you have caused by putting their brave and humanitarian endeavors into the centre of attention.
    May we all remain optimistic and compassionate, creative and helpful.
    Marianne Grosspietsch

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