M. C. Richards on the Wisdom of Creativity, continued

M.C. wrote a poem about what potters do which ends this way.

The heart in a potter’s art. Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

Potters like sun and stars
perform their art–
endowed with myth,
they make the meal holy.

Notice the cosmology in this poem; and the rendering of holiness that artists are about. “Matter reveals its brilliance in our hands.” Speaking of clay, she notes:

Throughout all the molecules streams a light of the numinous, the wondrous, the awesome. Every spoonful of clay emits light.

Behold! Surprises happen when one creates. Our task is to learn the revelation that is unfolding. 

Free-form pottery by M.C. Richards. Photographer unknown.

There is also a response to sudden impulses, undefined—this way or that way—oh look, what is the clay saying now?–guided toward an “uninvited” image. 

Always make room for surprises, she is advising the artist in all of us.  For my part, I know that many of my books have unexpected surprises that appeared when I finished them.

It is a good thing, M. C. proposes, that we not be in control all the time. 

There can be, as well, enthusiasm for not being in conscious control—ah, the energy of the brush, the thrust of the potter’s knife, the whip of a bowl off center, new gestures of fun for the body…. In the little color-and-word books, we improvise, dance with the words, let them BE (not to use them, but to celebrate them). 

Letting things be is a valuable practice. M. C. continues:

Handmade leatherbound journal. Photo by Nasim Keshmiri on Unsplash

The color is put on the paper on both sides first, then the paper is folded and cut and sewn and a little book is made. It is meant to help in the process of “writing.” The free use of color may liberate the flow of unrehearsed magical words.

She explains her goal:

By example and practice, I try to teach that creativity is built in—like the sun—it shines in everything we are and do—Look!  Take your time…. that drip has a soft energy to it. That sweetly and carefully made box holds another kind of spirit. We can’t lose. We have to fall in love.

“I am the Door” by M.C. Richards. From The Stations of the Cosmic Christ by Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

M. C.’s iconic “I am” tablets depict seven “I am” statements from John’s Gospel.  They laid the foundation for the Stations of the Cosmic Christ written by Bishop Marc Andrus and myself. She tells us the story of how they came about:

One evening, on the farm, I went to the studio to follow an impulse to work with “Door.”  I made a slab and a low relief door with a doorknob, which made me smile.  I am refreshed by the ordinary in the extraordinary.  The Door—the ‘hinge’—swinging between the worlds of sense and supersense; an opening and a pathway and a guide.  I continued to work and in a few hours (or days?) had made all seven ‘I Ams,’ those images Christ had named and which I found so interesting to think of as names for one’s SELF.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 237-238;

and from Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, 36.

Banner Image: The hands of potter/photographer/storyteller Bonnie Ann Burnett, holding one of her bowls. Photo by Shari Sikora; used with permission.

Do you too find your creative works contain wonderful surprises that take you far beyond your intentions at times?  That being in control can sometimes be overvalued?

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

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.

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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6 thoughts on “M. C. Richards on the Wisdom of Creativity, continued”

  1. Avatar

    I continue to reap such benefit from these morning meditations with Matt Fox. It’s my first action of each day to read/pray the “Daily Meditation with Matthew Fox”. Thank you so much, Matt. It must not be easy to do this work of sharing every, every day.
    As I read todays meditation, I am interested to know about the surprises, you said, that sometimes appear when you finish a book. Would you be willing to share one or two of these surprises with us?
    Blessings on your day,
    Joan Doyle

  2. Avatar

    I can’t tell you how many times during my career* as a playwright, I have been told things like “you have to know where your play is going before you begin writing” or “you really need to have an outline as you write.” I used to be intimidated by the supposed wisdom of these self-appointed mentors. Thanks partly to your guidance, Matthew, I am no longer intimidated. What I have known intuitively is that such a process disallows surprises, disallows magic! I never could write the way they told me too anyway, but I thought “perhaps they are right, and I’m doing something wrong.” Now I feel more confidence in what I’ve been doing. Now I am comfortable letting spirit and my created characters guide me toward the magic and wonders they have to offer.
    *Lol. Can you use the word ‘career’ if you don’t earn money from it? Lol.

    1. Carol Kilby

      That’s an interesting comment, Ron. I wonder how we marry creativity and planning. Is there some meditative practice by which we can test our plans? Maybe others have examples.
      Carol Kilby, D Min. M.Div. For D’MTeam

      1. Avatar

        There is no magic to marrying the two. Planning is important, but how often what we ‘plan’ to do actually happens the way we planned it? Life itself moves in unexpected ways.

        Too often our minds are rehashing the past or anticipating the future. Meanwhile the present is not attended to properly. Creativity usually comes when we live in the here-now.

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