A reporter recently asked me what was the motivating factor to play the upcoming benefit for both St. James’ Anglican Church and the Action Réfugies Montreal. (Details below) As a person of ministry, I seek to converge the gifts that have made themselves known to me through the arts, through theology, through my path as a spiritual and religious person, and through relationships. I respond creatively. Gifts are for giving. This is what I do. In the doing, I become. Much easier said than done. For me to stand on hallow ground and share the intimacies of my art, I find that I must strive toward what is known as an ‘emptying of the bones.’
There is an Indigenous saying that talks about ‘hollow bones’ as a means of emptying oneself of all the superfluous emotional décor of which we attach ourselves to time and time again. Birds have hollow bones. That is why they can fly. I strive to find those moments of hollowness, these moments of meekness where nothing stands between me and the note, or the colour, or the word. I strive to let the vulnerability of it all move me, and transform me – one excruciating moment at a time. I say excruciating because it is at times agonizing to move beyond. There is fear. The unknown. There is distrust in these caverns of doubt, at times. Though it is in these dens of darkness that the light may shine through, and reveal to me the transparency of intimacy. There lays the beauty revealed: a stark nakedness of truth in the emptying, in the hollow of the bones.
When I am asked about the performance of my art, whether it be the ‘me’ as a singer-songwriter, a writer, a poet or a painter, I am left facing the possibility of transformation. The task can be exceptionally daunting when considered at the existential level. For here is the mercy of what my vocation calls me to do: to express not solely for the sake of expression or art itself, but for the voice of authenticity to be heard. As this voice echoes of my purpose, the mission of my soul if I dare, it is to unfold with spiritual health, and with good cause it must do so charitably. It is a vulnerable undertaken – and awakens the apprentice’s portal toward humility. For myself, there is no other meaning. Anything else is happenstance.
As an artist it is difficult to stare at a blank canvas. Actually, as I sit and write this it is similarly difficult to stare at this blank canvas as well. The effort in doing so sometimes shudders with uncertainty. A quickening anxiety may arise; breath may be shallow or deep. Who am I, in this moment? What will speak? What do I care for? In other words, who do I imagine myself to be now? How am I beauty-filled? Only in the transcript of letters shaped, as words, first motioned through some technological device whether it be keyboard, camera, paintbrush or piano, will summon up the inspiration and the courage to address these questions. And not furtively, for the results, regardless of how they are judged are stark, and – they are but a quotient. Yet with every strike or stroke, colours of persona come to life. Words come to life embossing the contours of identity, as they traverse the bridge of expression. For we meet the thinker and the heart of this person through these words, these musical notes, these line drawings: these images that did not consciously exist even a moment ago, let alone yesterday.
I can’t speak for others, nor can I dictate the mandates and modicums of art. I must however take responsibility for the beliefs I envelop myself with. I believe in the healing and transformative power of converging art and spirituality: but it comes with a price – practice and discipline. I also espouse to the belief that our true nature, the truth of who we are and the truth of who we are to become is only manifest through relationships of kindness and caring. These are the marks of the spiritual path, and the art of arts: listening. Otherwise we are left to face the dire consequences of the vagrancy of spirit. Why do I do what I do? To know who I am. As I lay claim of something grandeur than myself, this ‘who am I’ does, so that I may become spiritually richer and wiser and humbly adept to deal with the call to care. It is part of what I believe meaning and mission to be about.
Please accept the invitation to join me and a roster of fine musicians for the upcoming “We are Called to Care” benefit Concert. If you can’t make it, please consider buying a ticket, and paying it forward. Any gesture of kindness or generosity can also hollow the bones.
(originally published in part in a reflective essay: “Reflections on the Art of Being: Personhood, Imagination, Beauty, and the Ethics of Care,” and also as a special contribution to http://artshudson.org