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God’s Part in Our Art (review)

Diane Pasta
On Dignity (July 2023)
God’s Part in Our Art
written by Linda Seger
reviewed by Diane Pasta

In her 2021 book, God’s Part in Our Art: Making Friends with the Creative Spirit, Linda Seger uses examples from numerous artistic professions, as well as her own personal stories, to show the process and joy of being an artist. I found this book to be deeply enjoyable and spirituality grounding, even though I don’t practice an art form myself. It spoke to me as a person who tries to approach life generally in a creative way.

A Quaker for fifty years, Seger draws examples and concepts from Jewish and Christian scriptures, from feminist theology, and from other theologies, to illuminate her view of the creative process. This book describes creation as an occurrence of two or more ideas that come together to form an original and truthful new expression about life. This highly readable book is an excellent example of that definition of creation, as it brings together two big ideas – spirituality and art.

Seger describes many aspects of the artistic process: receptive incubation, inspired illumination, anticipatory hovering, discipline, evaluation, and reflective rest. To be good stewards of this process, we must allow all these aspects to occur in their own right times. Our willingness to engage with the Creative Spirit and commit to the disciplines of our craft will give more dimension to our art, which will allow us to be transformed and to live fuller lives. Seger writes, “Beauty sustains us. It reaches deep into our soul, where the Creative Spirit breathes with us.” (p. 216)

Our artistic choices are partly aesthetic and partly ethical. We can use art to bring out the worst in people, or we can use it to reveal divine aspects of reality, and thus, contribute hope and inspiration to others. “In the midst of the worst circumstances, just as there is a glimmer of light, there is also a glimmer of blessing,” says Seger. “It is up to the prophets, the social justice warriors, and . . . the artists to keep the glimmer alive.” (p. 158)

Artists can deepen their work by examining their own struggles, addictions, projections, experiences, and emotions. Seger addresses “The Void” that artists fear (the blank page, for example). She challenges us to retain authenticity in our self-expression. She tackles the problematic ways that ego can undermine creative efforts. As a sort of counter-balance to those difficulties, Seger reminds us of many positive spiritual gifts that contribute to creativity: grace, clear values, transformation, dimensionality, joy, atonement, community-building, and redemption. “We try to work on ourselves spiritually so that what comes naturally out of us has value.” (p. 87)

This book delves delightfully into themes of identity, transformation, and integrity. Seger reminds us that new experiences and new knowledge can transform us and enhance our creativity. I learned all kinds of new ideas from this book – about people choreographing horses to music, about dark colors at the bottom of a painting grounding it, about great artists in the Bible, and about some ways that writers control rhythm and pace for the reader. There is much variety and depth in Seger’s approach to her subject.

God’s Part in Our Art encourages us to become better people and better artists. “Creativity can be the highest degree of individual actualization and emotional health.” (p. 201) Linda Seger invites us into a world of joy and wonder, and shows us ways that creativity can open us up to being guided, supported, and inspired by Wisdom, Light, and our own subconscious. We can thus incarnate our art – and our lives – with our values.  ~~~

Diane Pasta is a member of Salmon Bay Meeting (NPYM) and lives with her wife in Des Moines, Washington.

quakers and art creativity

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