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"Gladiolas-Red 2000" by Makoto Fujimura

"Gladiolas-Red 2000" by Makoto Fujimura

I read this great interview at The High Calling website with artist Makoto Fujimura about creativity and faith. Not much I can say that improves on what he says so well on his own. Sample:

“All of us are created to be creative in some way. We may not call ourselves artists or we may not be a professional artist; but creativity is an essence of being human. When you think about it, things that last in our memories are times when we were part of creating something. And, whether it be procreating, in terms of our families, or generating a business or creating an opportunity of mercy, or creating opportunities for people to hear the gospel—all of these are creative acts. And God calls us to that.”

Enough said. Go read it: part 1 and part 2.

Geez magazine's De-Motorize Your Soul Campaign

Geez magazine's De-Motorize Your Soul Campaign

As a professional communicator I have long been a fan of Adbusters magazine and publisher Kalle Lasn. They helped me stoke and maintain my more subversive nature in a sometimes stifling environment – and helped me always hold out hope that someday I could “use my powers for good.” But it was only recently that I became aware of the related publication/movement Geez magazine. Geez promotes “holy mischief in an age of fast faith.” They are, simply, Adbusters for Jesus freaks. I am liking them.

I just came across an idea, a program, a clarion call that Geez sent out several years ago but still rings true and is an idea whose time has not only come but is still aching for more support. Well, actually, the idea may not be aching for support but the earth is certainly aching for more humans to live out the idea.

The campaign is this: De-Motorize Your Soul. It blends many of my fave topics into one non-fossil-fuel-powered ball of slow-rolling goodness: God, sustainability and a powerful idea. It essentially calls us to move past oil and the ways it speeds up our lives (and the demise of our planet). The De-Motorize Your Soul campaign “frames the move away from oil as a practical experiment and an irresistible spiritual adventure.”

They’ve got a great list of spiritual exercises that include challenges like this:

– Take your soul off the road – go without motorized transportation for a day or more a week.

– Each time you walk out your front door pray: “Grant me the grace to go slow.”

In our home we’ve been trying our best to live post-car, post-oil for some time now (no small feat in Texas) and it has had a profound impact on us physically and spiritually. We’re not “there” yet, as it is a journey (like faith, like sustainability), but we’re on the path. As soon as you do not assume that you must go as fast and far as the rest of the modern world you start to prioritize things very differently, experience things in new ways, feel things more fully – and really understand how hard it is to extract yourself from dominant culture. It offers a perspective that can only be gained by self-imposing some outsider status on yourself – not a yoke many people take on willingly.

So, think about what you can do to De-Motorize Your Soul and feel the changes coming on. Every bit of the ride will not be smooth or pleasant but it will be fulfilling and it will bring you closer to God (though I have yet to find a map for that, exactly) through “irresistible spiritual adventure” and that makes it all worthwhile.

(photo by David Gonzales, New York Times)

After my last post I went surfing (swimming?) around to learn more about pools, New York City and big community ideas. It led me to yet another example of looking to the past for inspiration, finding multiple uses for a single space, bringing people together for recreation and camraderie, and, yes, heavy doses of creativity and persistence.

Case in point: the floating pool. Based on the floating pools of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were moored in the East and Hudson rivers in New York, the 21st Century version came to life last year.

It promotes community (free recreation for New York City neighborhood residents). It’s shell and framework is an old barge (sustainable reuse). It encourages use of public space and our park system (it is part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy). It solves land use limits (Real estate for public use too expensive or non-existent? Create “land” on the water!). The innovations of this approach go on and on.

Come on in! The creative water’s fine.

9721_10-1-1936_highbridge-poo

I saw this Treehugger post recently and thought it was a fine example of creativity meeting sustainability and a truly third way – head on in a perfect blend.

Much of what the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did in the 1930’s involved building and renovating new parks and public pools. For many years I benefited from some of those programs every time I hiked through Devil’s Den State Park in Northwest Arkansas. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of the efforts of the WPA, built Devil’s Den (just as they did for so many other parks at that time) and each time anyone steps on the trails or sleeps in the cabins in the park they are enjoying the work of the CCC – over 70 years after those paths were cleared and those stones were set.

The idea that caught my attention in the recent Treehugger piece involved pools. Specifically the massive public pools built during the Depression. The people who designed the pools clearly thought about how those public spaces could be enjoyed all the time, not just during the summer months when it was warm enough to swim, wade and sun bathe with neighbors (or your whole neighborhood – simultaneously, in fact – by the look of these huge facilities).

The architects developed designs that allowed the pools to transform when drained. The empty pools became fall and winter spaces for paddle tennis, shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball, and handball – even roller skating rinks. The indoor locker rooms and changing areas for the pools were adapted for boxing instruction and evening dance halls for teens. Mind you, this was before skateboards, or they might have turned them into off-season skate parks.

Space and resources were not wasted. Year-round community-building was encouraged. A sense of having created something worthwhile and versatile was instilled.

Our country has just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is very much like the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 that funded the Works Progress Administration. This time around will we use our resources wisely? Will we come up with flexible solutions that work for our citizens in all seasons – and for decades to come? Will we invest in projects that build community and culture in innovative, practical ways?

I hope so because that’s the kind of stimulus we need.