Faith, Cognition, and Creativity

It’s always dangerous to start blogging about potentially divisive issues like religion, especially on Sunday. But this post really isn’t about religion; it’s about faith and its role in the creative process. It’s also about how others within the creative and academic community perceive writers of faith. This post will probably cost me some readers, and I’m okay with that. I respect your views, and I’d like for you to respect mine as well. If you don’t, so be it. This is America, after all.

I have a lot of friends within the writing and arts realm who generally frown upon Christianity. They’ve had bad experiences with churches, pastors, congregation members, or other entities (choir directors, for instance). They’ve been fatigued by petty squabbles over methodology or order of worship. Their doors have been knocked on by cult members who say the path to prosperity and eternity is “my way or the hell-way.” It’s too bad, really.

In workshops and in seminars, there always seems to be a faction of holy-haters, and inevitably, they flock together to build the fire of their ire with the fuel of others’ guile. I happen to be a Christian, and I’m saddened by their disdain. Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me clarify: I am not what certain popular media portray as “Christian:” Quran-burning, hate-filled, condemnation spewers who bomb abortion clinics and wave “God Hates F*gs” posters. My Jesus wouldn’t do that.

My position is just this: In order to be “whole” people, individuals must engage not only their minds, but also the other aspects of their humanity– the physical, the emotional, and yes, the spiritual. My soul happened to be spoken to at an early age. I felt a sincere and innate desire to choose Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and since that time, my Faith has given me “life more abundantly:” My highs have been the highest, my lows have been the lowest, but in every circumstance, my God has seen me through in a way that secular logic never could. Whether it’s been near-death experiences (I’ve been on life support twice), experimental brain surgery in my early thirties, or the thousands of smaller instances along the way, I feel certain that my life would have been much worse and less significant without Christ.

My personal faith isn’t the way some choose to engage their soul, and I get that. For some of my writer friends, Yoga is their spiritual exercise of choice. For others, they lean toward a different set of traditions. These same friends have sent me their “happy thoughts” or their “positive vibrations” when they’ve been doing their religious practices. I am not offended. We agree to disagree, and they acknowledge my prayers and practices just as I acknowledge theirs. Call it the spiritual equivalent of the “two-finger wave” off the steering wheels of our separate supernatural vehicles.

But herein lies the key to this matter: Faith, you see, is exactly that — metaphysical belief. It’s not a scientific theory to be diagnosed and dissected by the mind, and that element of mystery disturbs some of my colleagues. You cannot solve a spiritual question with a cognitive answer any more than you can use your heart as your brain. The two (in both cases) carry specific demands and capabilities that cannot be met or found in other ways.

Likewise, having a science-based argument about religion is like trying to apply duct tape to a rainbow. It ain’t-a gonna happen, friend. I know that my writing is stronger and my life is better when both most closely reflect and exhibit the tenets of my beliefs. When I’ve tried to “be someone else”  or write like someone I’m not, the product was passionless, synthetic, and ugly. I cannot “write like a Buddhist” any more than Richard Gere can act like he’s me (trust me, he can’t).

My faith has given me inspiration many times over the years. Granted, my poems have not become evangelical daggers that stab scripture into people; that wouldn’t help anyone, and it’s not my style. However, chances are good that if you’ve had a strong emotional (even spiritual) response or connection while reading my work, that’s probably not accidental, either. I’ll let the reader decide that little detail.

The purpose of this post, I hope, has been clearly conveyed. My intent here is not alienation or division, but explication and perhaps some provision of understanding. The closer we can come to being real with each other about all the diverse facets of our lives as writers, artists, and whole human beings, the better our world will be. If this transparency offends you, reader, I apologize. I would offer my warmest regards and highest hopes for all of us in the week ahead. And if you’d like, I’ll say a little prayer for you, too.

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