Friday, October 4, 2013

The Feast Day of St. Francis for Writers and Artists

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis.  For those of you who want a more spiritual meditation, head to these posts on my theology blog, one without photos, and one with photos.  For those of you wondering why we should care about a medieval saint or for those of you wanting to celebrate his life with your creativity, read on.

Francis continues to speak to so many of us, and for so many reasons.  Let's look at the various reasons and how they might inspire us in our creative lives.

--Francis is most associated with love of animals, which may explain his enduring popularity.  Churches across the world will celebrate his feast day by having services where people are welcome to bring their pets for a blessing. 

In our art, how could you take something traditional, like a worship service, and subvert it?  I'm thinking of the short story told via PowerPoint slides in Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Today is a good day to think about the role of pets in our lives and to think about how we feel about less cuddly animals.  The symbolic possibilities may seem obvious--how could we use animals in a less obvious way as symbols in our work?

--Francis has come to be associated with the environmental movement, in part because of his love of animals, in part because he liked to visit ruined parts of society.

Today is a good day to think about our planet, much of which is already ruined.  We might think about the fact that we're living in the Holocene Extinction, one of 5-7 times in our planet's history where we know we're losing species at a far faster, and perhaps catastrophic, rate.  How can our creative endeavors address the situation? 

--Francis came from a very wealthy family, a family he renounced in solidarity with society's poor and outcast.  He lived amongst the lepers, the lowest of the low, and ministered to their needs.

Who are society's lepers today?  Can our art help humanize them?

--Francis worked to help end the Crusades. 

How could our creative work help end wars?

--Francis created three religious orders, two of which exist today, centuries after he created them.

What kind of community could help us in our creative endeavors?  Does it exist already?  If not, could we create such a community?

Several times during his life, Francis had to write a rule book for how the communities would live together.  If you created such a rule book, what would you include?

--Francis created the first Nativity scene, what we might today call a living Nativity scene, complete with real animals.  His scenes were inspired by paintings of the Nativity scene (think Jesus in a manger, surrounded by those who loved him and some animals).  He wanted visitors to feel the full engagement of all their senses.  We might think of Francis as an early performance artist or maybe someone who created a piece of installation art.

If we've been working in a certain medium for many years, we may have gotten complacent about trying to have all the senses of our audience engaged.  What can we do to change that?

If you're not a performance artist or a person who creates installation art, what could you do to move into that area?  It's an exciting time for collaboration and for exploring technology.  Read this post by Rachel Barenblat and be inspired!

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