from scant means
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
When asked what I am doing artistically, or what we are doing with Wondern Awe, this scene from Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenebaums runs through my brain. Tennis great Richie "the Baumer '' Tenebaum has what they refer to as a meltdown in the middle of a tennis match. He plays poorly. He quietly cries. He takes off his shoes and one sock. He sits down. He seems completely disoriented in the middle of something that he should know how to do.
Recently a friend lent me her copy of Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch . I have not read it cover to cover yet, but have flipped open random pages to glean from my friend’s highlights and underlining. There is one chapter entitled "The Power of Limits", in which the author introduced me to the term, bricoleur: an artist who makes do with the materials on hand.
Nachmanovitch goes on,
These magical acts of creation are analogous to pulling a large amount of rabbit from a small amount of hat. As in the greatest known form of magic, organic growth and evolution, the output is greater than the input. There is a net gain of information, complexity, and richness. Bricolage implies what mathematicians like to call “elegance,” that is, such economy of statement that a single line of thought has a great economy of statement that a single line of thought has a great many implications and outcomes. In the same vein, Beethoven, writing of his favorite composer, Handel, felt that the measure of music is “producing great results from scant means.”
What is my hope?
From scant means, there is the possibility of great results. This is not a call to do more, or to be more. This is an encouragement. Well, this is how I am seeing it: to just be open to great things in the midst of scant means. This is my prayer for myself each day, and it brings me back to what Jesus meant when he said be childlike in your faith.
Nachmanovitch continues these thoughts for me,
In the same way, to a child’s imagination twig is a man, a bridge, a telescope. This transmutation through creative vision is the actual day-to-day realization of alchemy. In bricolage, we take the ordinary materials in our hands and turn them into new living matter- the ‘green gold’ of the alchemists. The fulcrum of the transformation is mind-at-play, having nothing to gain and nothing to lose, working and playing around the limits and resistance of the tools we hold in our hands.
You see it right?
This is the good news of the Gospel. This is what Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. In the creative process, we are part of this transmutation. How comforting to know it is good to have scant means.
Well, I want this to be comforting, but I am not sure I really believe it yet.
I want to believe, help my unbelief.
So what is this creative practice where we take ordinary materials and turn them into new living matter? It sounds so much more magical than what I have experienced. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it feels like driving with the brakes on. My part is to just show up. Pick up the pen. Pick up the twig. Look up at the clouds. And breathe. The alchemy is the work of the Holy Spirit.
As I write this, I am reminded of our Gloryscope workshop, which seems like a lifetime ago. We created that workshop based on this quote:
The physical world is full of amazing things. It was created as a daily reminder that there is a bigger story, and although we are a part of this story, we are not at the center of it. We call this glory vision. It is the ability to look at all the things around us big and small, and use the wonder we experience, to focus our eyes on the glory of God. Seeing this way, His glory becomes magnified. It is like using a microscope and a telescope at the same time. When we see things with wonder and awe, our eyes become a gloryscope.
- Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do
by Paul David Tripp
my prayer from scant means:
What is in front of me?
Is it enough?
Is there hope?
I cannot see it.
I cannot feel it.
I have lost my shoes.
And one sock.
Be with me.