Monday, January 21, 2013

The serious business of play: "Spirituality and the arts"

Last week was my turn to be the presenting artist at North Valley Friends’ seminar on Spirituality and the Arts. I shared from the position of poet. As I pondered and prepared on how my art and my spirituality intertwine, I came up with a list. I love making lists. They’re usually a bit arbitrary, but that’s one thing I like about them. If I were to come up with a list on the same topic next month, it would be different. And that’s OK.
Actually the list of ways my poetry contributes to my spirituality was enlightening to me, and apparently to the small group of people gathered on Wednesday evening. I gave it a simple heading: “Poetry helps me to…..” And then I read poems that illustrated each item on the list.
Here’s my list. “Poetry helps me to…
--see and say the grace of God hidden in the ordinariness of life.
--embrace what it means to be human.
--engage in the serious business of play.
--explore the Word, accidentally discover truth.
The poems under the category of “the serious business of play” were the most fun to read. I’m convinced of the necessity of play/fun/laughter to a healthy spirituality. I’m fascinated by the relation of the words “humor,” "humus” (as in dirt/ground), “human,” and “humility.” And of course the Spanish words always enlighten: gracia (meaning “grace”), gracias (meaning “thanks”), and gracioso (meaning “funny”). A humorous outlook is a good indication we’re trusting God, not taking our circumstances or ourselves more seriously than we ought.
I see art (or Art, if you prefer) as play. As serious play. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ comment that “The serious business of heaven is joy.” Perhaps by writing poems (or reading and loving poems) we’re playing our way closer to heaven.
Here's one of the poems I read, an old poem actually.
“An Eccumenical Quaker Draws the Line”
 Can't say I'm not open.
I meditate with Mennonites,
chant with Catholics,
and belt out Baptist blues with the best of them.
I danced at my daughter's wedding to a Nazarene,
and once I even rolled the aisle with a Pentecostal.
But with funerals I reach my limit.
When my time comes
I will insist on my own homespun,
tried and true Quaker version.
I just wouldn't feel dead
without it.


  1. Expectant worship. Don't leave earth without it.

  2. Yes, thank you. Worship is a form of holy play.

  3. I love my place in this poem.