I’m in the middle of trying to write a play for my Bible as Lit class. It’s tough to generate ideas. Tough to make it sound realistic. Tough to figure out pacing. Tough to develop believable characters. Tough to figure out what I want to say through the story without being preachy or obvious. Those darn Muses can be awfully elusive.
I have often marveled at the sources of inspiration, and I’m in awe of artists who seem overwhelmed with so many dreams that one lifetime is hardly enough to realize all of them. My friend Seth is like that. His mind is constantly bombarded with brilliant ideas in every artistic genre, and if he had unlimited time, money, and energy, he could come up with enough stuff to fill a few museums. I struggle to come up with one decent, readable, un-nauseating play.
In contemplating the sources of inspiration (and wondering why ideas don’t come easily to me), I’ve been struck by the beautiful interconnectedness of the arts. I’ve seen dances created by choreographers who were inspired by stories or even by basic concepts like “addiction” or “desertion.” They took the inspiration and transformed its essence into breathtaking kinesthetic art. Eudora Welty composed her short story “A Worn Path” when she looked out her window one afternoon and saw an elderly black lady hobbling down a road. A painter might have seen the same thing and created a portrait or an abstract rendering of the woman’s mental state. A composer might have created a lonely, introspective tune. Mussorgsky created a musical interpretation of a series of paintings; it was called “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Close your eyes, listen to that suite, and you can see the gnomes, the catacombs, and Baba Yaga. I love to use this interconnectedness in my classroom. I will play a piece of classical music for my students and have them move their pens in response to the music (my favorite for this one is “Flight of the Bumblebee”). Then I have them compose a poem that expresses the music and the movement of their pens. I also love to have them look at an abstract sculpture and story in response to it.
When we become adept at one art form, we start to use it as an interpretive lens through which we see both the ordinary elements of the world and other artistic renderings of the world. The composer hears music when he sees paintings. The painter sees sounds and smells in visual form. The choreographer feels movement in music.
It’s a beautiful revelation of God’s character. Behind the specific forms of art, there’s a single Creator who is the ultimate source of inspiration. His ideas flow through human vessels in various incarnations that all point to the universal attributes of human nature. Even though they often reflect a broken, bleeding world, they give us a glimpse of who we truly we are: masterpieces of the greatest Artist of all.