M.C. Richards, was potter, poet, painter, philosopher and a cherished teacher in my creation spirituality programs over many years. In her classic work Centering, she tells us of the intimate relationship between throwing a pot on the wheel and meditation.
Pottery can teach us the discipline of freedom, including the freedom to play. We must be able to have fun, we must feel enjoyment, and sometimes long imprisonment has made us numb and sluggish…. We become brighter, more energy flows through us, our limbs rise, our spirit comes alive in our tissues.
In art, we learn to let go.
We redeem our energies not by wrestling with them and managing them, for we have not the wisdom nor the strength to do that, but by letting the light to shine upon them.
We also let things be themselves—including unpleasant things.
The discipline comes in when we have to pay attention to what we don’t like, aren’t interested in, don’t understand, mistrust,…. when we have to read the poetry of our enemies—within or without.
In art, we wed body and spirit so thoroughly that redemption comes in a bodily way.
It is in our bodies that redemption takes place. It is the physicality of the crafts that please me: I learn through my hands and my eyes and my skin what I could never learn through my brain.
For Richards, art as meditation leads to seeing what is—and this has real implications for our work at social healing and compassion.
How can we not see what our eyes behold? As our perception become more and more coordinated, we grow in justice.
She talks about moral imagination that is developed by the discipline of art.
From the child’s ability to imagine grows as well the adult’s capacity for compassion: the ability to picture the suffering of others, to identify. In one’s citizenship, or the art of politics, it is part of one’s skill to imagine other ways of living than one’s own.
M. C. tells the story of how one day a nine-year-old girl brought her an object resembling a curved plate to be fired in the kiln. “What’s that, Lisa?” M.C. asked the girl. “It’s art,” Lisa said solemnly.
Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that movement. It was an epiphany, a revelation. From the mouths of babes….Matter that bears spirit into the fire to be transformed: It’s art. How did she know that?
It was, I believe, a totally intuitive, innocent, unselfconscious, essential wisdom. And it came from a deep, innocent, unselfconscious, essential source, an essential Self.…an essential Self. This essential Self, I believe, belongs to each of us, and is at the same time a network, a basis of communion: my self and the Self.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, pp. 236f;
Also see Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.
Banner Image: “The Pottery Lesson, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, India.” Photo by Shayne Inc Photography on Unsplash
Do you agree that it is in our bodies that redemption takes place? What follows from that? What are the implications for our work in the body politic?
Do you too recognize how the moral imagination is key to our capacity for compassion?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
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 Fundamentalism, Living in Sin