A while back I spent a weekend in Nashville with a bunch of Gonzos at a gathering of gathers called Hutchmoot. It was a marvelous time and I’m finally getting around to writing about it.
Anyone involved in a creative process knows how exhausting it can be, and collaborative, which adds to the fatigue.
The ability to be creative is a blessing. J. R. R. Tolkien spoke of “subcreation.” Others have observed this too, namely, that while humans cannot create worlds like God, nevertheless we are able to be creative like God. We can subcreate.
We do more than create. We experience creations.
Walter Wangerin, Jr. defines art as “a composed experience that is experienced by someone else.” Wangerin, a brilliant storyteller, believes that art only can be considered art when the experience is shared. Wangerin thinks that his stories -- his subcreations -- are not art until you read them.
We might say that an unshared creation is not art; it’s only storage.
If you’ve ever experienced really good art, you know that it can be, in a way, exhausting. Sometimes the experience is energizing, which eventually leads to weariness when you get past the initial thrill. Sometimes the experience itself takes it out of you.
Christian doctrine teaches that God does not need to rest. God neither gets weary nor exhausted. Therefore, on the seventh day of creation, when it says in the scriptures that God rested, theologians point out that in actuality God “ceased.” That is, on the seventh day of creation, God didn’t lay down on the cool sand of a beach recently made and take a nap. Rather, God simply stopped doing more art.
You have to wonder what the rest of creation did on the seventh day.
Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Did flowers cease on the seventh day? No. On the seventh day, flowers kept right on composing experiences that were experienced by someone else. All of creation did. I know I am being dangerously theological here, but perhaps it is right to say that on the seventh day God stopped his creation ex nihilo and set in motion art. No longer did God make new things out of nothing. Now, what has been made makes art in a never-ending subcreation.
In this manner, let me suggest that the seventh day is the day of art. It’s the day of subcreation: the time when creatures collaborate with the creator and the creation in order to subcreate, to compose experiences that are experienced by others.
There is bad art and there is good art. Anyone who reads in the scriptures a few paragraphs past the account of the seventh day knows where this can lead. The stories we create can turn awful in a hurry. Keep reading, though, and the stories can include nearly unimaginable works of art. Grace.
We are ourselves works of art. We are, each of us, a composed experience experienced by someone else -- by other people and by God. We are also artists. All of us, like it or not, compose our lives to be experienced by someone else -- by other people and by God. It’s a nearly incomprehensible opportunity. We artists get to subcreate a story that can please other creatures, and even the creator.