I finally saw La La Land over the weekend, and loved it! It was fantastical, imaginative, and complex. Creativity at its finest. In fact, the overall tone, theme, and message involved creativity- daring to follow your
dreams as an original patiently braving failure and the unknown. I am not going to give away the ending…not even a hint. But I will say that there is this idea that some will be brave and original, and some will follow mass marketing trends. Some will want to make a true difference, and some will just want to be liked.
Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling at one point in the film says regarding Hollywood and the LA scene, “They worship everything and they value nothing.” I think this could be a description of the pervading culture at large. Media, technology, fashion, art…the definitions and ideals of the various systems in our culture are obscure. It is as if it is new and it spreads then it must be good. And everyone runs to the altar of #trending.
I listened to an excellent interview today of writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin. He said, “Don’t try to be the next J.K. Rowling. We already have one of those.” In other words, be original. Be you! But if you are bowing at the altar of #trending then you won’t look up long enough to see beyond the present idols.
I think a lot about this stuff. I am a mom, creative type, who not only wants to value the true, good, and beautiful, but wants to help my kids navigate the murky waters of a #trending culture. I am not anti-fashion, anti-contemporary, or anti-trends necessarily. I listen to new music and older music, I read newly published books and classics, I try and learn from history while creating history in my small plot of land for such a time as this. I just have to be brave enough to do the next thing. As a Christian, I seek to follow God’s will for my life, and what some may call risk, I like to call faith. The cost of discipleship is not a call to play it safe, but as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” I am convinced that faithful living is risky. I see art as a ministry. At least it can be. It should be. But if Christian creatives (finger pointing at self) keep looking at the #trending culture to decide what to do next then we are already out of touch before we begin, and we lose our voice.
With the book I am writing I feel this tension between letting the book get written and waiting for permission from #trending to write it. (By the way, #trending exists even in the Christian subculture. Not a shocker, I know.) If art is to speak then it should be clear and distinct. But if it sounds or looks like everything else, or a inferior version of everything else, then will it be heard?
“…if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.” 1 Corinthians 14:9
I’ve come to understand three things regarding art as a ministry ⇒
#1 Be original. Make great art.
#2 Be clear. Let the art communicate truth in a way that is understood.
#3 Be brave. Seek God’s will as you create and take steps of faith to share your work as a ministry to others.
The call of the Christian is not to follow #trending, but to follow Christ. We seek not to build our platform, but to build the Kingdom of God. As we create, produce, nurture, prune, develop, lead, and teach, we look to the original Creator not only as our example, but as the One we both value and worship.