Yesterday I attended a Sunday School class on the book, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith – I didn’t take notes, but after a conversation today about art, culture, and the church, I remembered that I wanted to get a better overview of Smith’s writing on Taylor’s work, so I went to YouTube and found this 25 minute interview with Smith from Eerdmans Publishing.
I was especially intrigued by the conversation there around “excarnation,” so I Googled “excarnation Taylor” to learn more and landed at this blog post, where there is a reference to Charles Taylor’s definition of excarnation as “the steady disembodying of spiritual life, so that it is less and less carried in deeply meaningful bodily forms, and lies more and more ‘in the head.'” Another blogger has a beautiful response: “So what do we do, as Christians? We rediscover the incarnation: the paradoxical place where the divine and the human occupy the same space without either being diminished by the other: As Taylor says, Christianity, as the faith of the Incarnate God, is denying something essential to itself as long as it remains wedded to forms which excarnate” (p771).
And a Google search for “art as incarnation” led me to a soul-affirming post that says
God allows us to share in [the] power of creation. We are artists, and we are tools in the hand of God. Rather, to be an artist is to be a tool in the hand of God.
The art I am making – hand-drawn mandalas, repurposed paper collages, paper tile mosaics – is not about the made thing, which is a fabulous relief since the end products are lowly and humble in the grand scheme of things (or even in the modest scheme of things.) Instead, the art is in the making itself, in the incarnated expression of creation for creation’s sake, loveliness for loveliness’ sake. It is my communion and my prayer, my chance to be, as Mother Teresa once said “…a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.””
And a late-evening addendum: I just got home from week five of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course I’m taking through the Atlanta Mindfulness Institute. The conversation was about strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system in order to be more in the body in order to be more grounded. When I sit in meditation, as when I’m in the flow of creating a piece of art, there are fleeting moments where I can get out of my head and into my body. Different context, but this takes me back to incarnation (and excarnation). Everything’s connected!