Own it: Authenticity

Rain clouds loomed outside as I sat across from my spiritual advisor, Br. Robert, in the simple room. “You have to own it,” he said. “You’re an artist. Own it.”

He talked about his early years as a friar. The other friars didn’t think much of his penchant for painting, forcing Br. Robert to sacrifice his own time, money, and space for it. At one point, he even tried to suppress the urge because it interfered so much with his religious duties. Just as Thomas Merton complained about his “double” as a writer pestering him during his early years with the Trappists, Br. Robert struggled with the artist fighting for expression from within.

When he left the friars–and the Catholic Church for a time–Brother Robert lived on Skid Row, trying to make his work as an artist. He found a deep, resonant calling. Surviving on rice and beans–tuna fish, when he could afford it–he scraped by, but his art taught him his vows better than his stint with the friars. Poverty. Obedience. Chastity. The words clarified as the years wore on.

For Br. Robert, devotion to art proved a devotion to God.

“Own it,” he had said. The words made sense as he said them, but didn’t resonate. As the years has pass, the words Br. Robert and I shared deepen and clarify, like his vows. Tempered and stretched by experience, his wisdom grows. I understand him now.

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Non-economic labels

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from “Stealth of Nations,” a blog by Robert Neuwirth

I just finished Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything, a recent book by writer and researcher F.S. Michaels. She details how an economic view of the world shapes our lives at the expense of other views. The “economic story,” as she calls it, is a way of viewing the world that takes specific biases for reality: mainly that we’re rational individuals with selfish needs behaving in an indifferent market system.

Our world expects us to conform to this monoculture and we hardly notice its pervasive dominance.

It was a fascinating book, and I hope to have a review up this week, but I read it thinking of my own self-proscribed label as a “writer.”

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