KEEP YOUR ART ALIVE

There is a way that seems right to man, which in the end leads only to death. -Proverbs 14:12

 

That isn't going to make much sense at first, but just be patient with me. I'll get there. 

I'm sitting here in a coffee shop, watching a video on Facebook by a photographer that I follow, tears streaming down my face, confronted by all that is good and kind and evil and wicked in the world. The video does not present any new information about the world or even about this photographer. I've seen a lot of what the world has to offer and I've followed this particular photographer long enough to know his story very well. 

Let me tell you a little bit about him. His name is Jeremy Cowart and he's most known for his photography work with celebrities like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Imogen Heap, Sting...I could go on an on. He's kind of a big deal. 

In addition to his work with celebrities, Jeremy is also known for founding HelpPortrait, an event held every year around the world during which photographers donate their time and talents to photograph people who can't afford professional photos. For some of these people this event was the first time they had ever had their picture taken. 

There are really a lot of things Jeremy is known for and I wont list them all here. You should take 20 minutes to watch the video he made about how he got started in photography and art and what it all means to him. I'll post the video at the bottom of this page.

Toward the middle of the video Jeremy starts talking about his time spent in Haiti and Rwanda. In Haiti he spent time photographing people after the earthquake. He went to be able to share the stories of the people of Haiti with the world. More than just the statistical analysis of the damage, he wanted to show the world who these people were and how this disaster had changed them. In Rwanda he went to show the power of forgiveness with portraits of people who were meeting with those responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. 

I haven't seen the rest of the video left because I got too emotional to continue. I'm in public, people were staring... although I'm pretty sure it was more uncomfortable for them than it was for me but I think this kind of emotion needs space to be expressed. After you watch the video you should listen to the Sleeping At Last Album, "Atlas: Space 1." The whole thing. Go somewhere you can be alone, preferably outside, listen to the music and just let your mind search out whatever it is that it wants to find. I'll wait.

My mind found Proverbs 14:12. Yes, I find it a little odd too. Here I was watching a video about broken places and people finding restoration and peace and my thoughts drift toward death. 

It is not a literal death I'm thinking about though, it is everything else. Spiritual, relational, emotional, intellectual, physical...death. How often do we make decisions that we feel are so incredibly right but in the end they lead to the death of something. The end of a friendship, the crossroads of a relationship, the unraveling of a life of faith, the painful spiral into a deep pit of depression, the deterioration of our bodies, the dementia of our minds. 

In the beginning of the video Jeremy talks about how as a child and even still his first thought whenever faced with something new is always, "I can't." I can't. I can't. I can't. How many times do we say that? We think we're right. In fact, we know we are. I can't. It feels like the truth. We really can't do whatever is being asked of us. There is no way. No possible way for us to do and be what is asked of us. There is no way to do the things that we really, truly, deep down, long to do. There is no way for us to be who we really, truly, deep down, long to be. We can't.

This truth, as we tell ourselves it is, seems right, but in the end, leads only to death

What if Jeremy couldn't? Or worse, what if he could but he didn't because he didn't believe he could? HelpPortrait might not exist. The people of Haiti might not have had a voice after the earthquakes. We might never have seen the power of forgiveness through the people of Rwanda. If Jeremy had kept believing, "I can't," those things would have never had life. It would have been the death of his art, his voice, his contribution to the world. 

Are you telling yourself you can't do something? I am. I tell myself I can't make a difference. I'm just one person. My voice is small. No one cares about what I have to say or offer. I can't be a legit photographer, I can't be a successful blogger, I can't make an impact on anyone. I can't. I have nothing to offer. 

But...what am I killing by believing that? What if I could just believe, for just a few moments, that I can. I can do whatever I want. I can make a difference. I can be who I was created to be. What could I help give life to if I could just believe? Maybe it will never be on the scale of what Jeremy has done but that's ok. The magnitude is not the point. At least, on a good day, it's not the point. If I could help give life to just one idea that impacted just one person... what could that create in the world?

If I can do all this, then just imagine what you can do. What have you been too afraid to try? What voices have kept you from reaching your potential? What voices have closed your sense of wonder? If you’re alive...if you’re breathing... we need you. We need your vision. Remember, the very word impossible actually spells ‘I’m possible.’ You can do anything through Christ who strengthens you.
— Jeremy Cowart

No matter where you come from or how far you have to go, when you believe that it is right to say, "I can't do/be _____," you are killing something. We are all here for a reason. It doesn't have to be profound or even specific. You exist and it's not an accident. What are you going to do with it? What will you create? What will you keep alive?