I don't know if you are like me, but the older I get, the more I think about my time behind me expanding and my time ahead in this world is shrinking.
I am not trying to be morbid. The Scriptures tell us to count our days aright. Mortality is one of the great motivators to "seize the day." And yet no matter how I spend my time, it never seems like there is enough of it.
Sometimes it is the small things. I don't find the time to return emails or phone calls. I have a stack of books that I keep intending to read. I still want to see every Academy Award winning Best Picture and at least one performance of each of Shakespeare's plays.
And then there are places I've yet to see. I am not a big traveler I tend to be slightly miserable when I am not home. But I've never seen the Grand Canyon, the Highlands of Scotland, the Vatican, or San Diego Comic Con.
But the thing that nags me the most are my uncompleted art. I have at least a dozen stories rolling around in my brain that I have not gotten around to putting down on paper. Among them are:
-I have novel about a teenager cursed with 4 wishes
-I have a short story that takes place at a prison camp in the far future
-I have a musical loosely based on Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory
-I have a comic book series about the most evil being in the world who does not want to be so
-I have another comic book series about a group of heroes trying to prevent a nuclear war
-I have book analyzing all of the Christology in JK Rowling's Harry Potter stories.
-I have a screenplay about my grandparents' love story when the Japanese occupied their country
-I have a three part Superman comic about Truth, Justice, and the American Way
-I have movie trilogy about vampire hunters
-I have a modern high school version of Much Ado About Nothing
-I have a short story about a demon who falls in love with an angel
-I have a musical version of Somewhere in Time
All of these semi-started or partly finished. And this doesn't count my unwritten songs, uncomposed sonnets, undrawn illustrations...
This past winter I wrote a screenplay about a girl in a wheelchair who falls in love with a dancer, so she becomes a dancer too. I was able to finish right before Christmas. It was incredibly satisfying, but truly exhausting. After I was finished, I felt mentally and emotionally drained. Please forgive this melodramatic conceit, but the story was so emotional that I poured a lot of my feelings into it. When it was done, I was drained.
Creating something, any kind of art, is like giving birth. Of course I don't mean that it is as physically painful or emotionally beautiful as bringing a child into the world. But all art is about birthing something hidden inside the self through concentration and labor and giving it to the world. It is a window into the soul. Art makes visible in the world what is invisible in the person. Just as every child is a part of the parent, every piece of art is a part of the artist.
But the art does not become real until it is incarnate outside the self. Ideas for stories are not stories. Mental images for paintings are not actual paintings. If it does not find expression, it dies inside you.
Of course this no ones fault but my own. We always prioritize what is important to us. If I truly wanted these stories written and art created, I would have done so by now. I think that most of us are in that position: we have great ideas that we can never quite keep focused long enough to birth.
And as the years turn on and my time grows shorter, I realize the window for creation is closing. Even if I get around to making most of what is buzzing around in my brain, I'm sure there will be more. I don't think I shall ever finish all that I started. I have the distinct feeling that my life will be half finished when all is said and done.
As I said, I think that most of us are like this. Feeling as though something in life was left undone. And that seems tragic, truly tragic.
Or is it?
When thinking about all of the things I have yet to do, I pondered on the question, why do we make art in the first place? It would appear that it boils down to 2 things:
1. To give us a new and greater insight into the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
This drab world needs light from the world above to lift us out of the shadows
2. To express the art that exists inside of the soul that needs to be expressed.
We need to tell people our stories and thoughts and feelings. Even the writing of this blog is simple way to take what is on my mind and heart and give that part of me to others so that they can know me.
The urge of creation is buried deep within us because we are made in God's image. And God is a great artist. Creation, all things visible and invisible, is a great work of art. It is an amazing story. It is the greatest story ever told. We also need to create. Even as children we need to doodle with crayons and mash Play-Doh. It is part of our nature. But I don't think that need will be around forever.
In Heaven, we will not need art to give us insight into the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Instead of using art to give us glimpses of those things, we can have them directly. Instead of dabbing our lips with water, we can bathe in the river of gladness. We will be with God Himself, who is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
But I don't think we will need art in Heaven for the second reason either. Paul says of this world and the next world, " For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor 13:12)
The thing that strikes me is that he says with God, I am fully known. I think that is what it will be like in Heaven for us all. There, there will no longer be any barriers between us. We need art to express who we are so we can communicate it to others and be known to them. But I think that in Heaven we will see each other completely, totally. We won't have to find a way to express who we are inside because our hearts will be completely known to all and we will know everyone else's heart.
This does not mean that the we will lose something. Instead we gain. The whole purpose of art is fulfilled. I no longer will need a medium to express the art in me.
I will be the art I always tried to make.