There is a purity in true art and ambition that can easily get lost in the process of pursing our dreams. We live in an age where tweets, Facebook feeds, and Instagram snapshots dominate our lives and computer screens. At any and every moment any one of us can broadcast our thoughts and actions to thousands. This has brought with it tremendous opportunity along with overnight stardom and millions of boosted egos. The temptation is to use social media as a platform to propel our name instead of simply being faithful in what God has called us to and using it as the amazing tool that it is. We’re human. I’m not saying it’s easy. Our human nature is to be acknowledged, accepted and appreciated but where we go wrong is majoring in the minors and allowing superficial fame to be prized over real life impact.
I started blogging almost 3 years ago and in that time have had the opportunity of having a more far reaching impact than I could have ever anticipated. What started as the pursuit of a calling I felt God had placed on my life to write, turned into a personal social media mini explosion in a matter of months and the temptation to join the rat race to the top of the social media and blogging ladder. It has been a sobering realization for me. I never woke up one day deciding I want to pursue blogging stardom, achieve a certain amount of followers on Facebook, or gain a quota of likes on every article I write. I woke up one day realizing that the main thing I am called and gifted to do on this earth is write. I feel God has, in a sense, placed a pencil and paper in my hands in this life and I am to be faithful with it until the day I die. But, validation can be like a drug that, once you experience, only becomes more addicting. So I’ve found myself navigating this maze of social media, often propelled forward by the drug of validation. I’ve found myself both flattered and humbled. Struggling with both excitement and fear. Pride and genuine humility. Joy and frustration. Battling the temptation to pursue a platform over pursuing my calling.
C.S. Lewis explains this battle between true art and ambition best in his book The Great Divorce, a theological fantasy in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell and the journey of different individuals between the two worlds. One of the characters in the story is an artist who has forgotten the true purpose of his art. During a discussion between him and one of the “spirits” in the book the spirit says to him, “When you painted on earth—at least in your earlier days—it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. He goes on to say, “Ink and paint are necessary down there, (on earth) but they are dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist but for grace is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells to the love of telling. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint. They sink lower. Become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.”
This is exactly the tragedy. One that has only grown worse in the day and age of social media. What begins as passions, dreams, and ambitions to reach others and help them catch glimpses of heaven in an earthly landscape, becomes a million different solo acts interested only in their own reputations. And while we’re all pursuing our solo acts, God is trying to create a symphony. When our focus becomes so narrow that we are only concerned about ourselves, our own name and our own fame, we not only miss the point of our calling but we limit the potential of its impact. God didn’t put us here and give us gifts so that we could make a name for ourselves, he put us here and gave us gifts so that others could experience Him. True art is a rare glimpse into eternity. To be an artist, a writer, a photographer, a musician, etc is an incredible calling and an incredible gift not to be taken lightly.
So I am writing this in an attempt to restore true art. To call artists, musicians, and writers alike to be fully honest and ask themselves one question, “Why do I create?” If the answer to that question is ultimately, “To gain a following.” ”To make a name for myself.” or “To be validated in my work.” I would ask that you step back for a moment and reevaluate your art, your calling and your motivation. I am speaking to myself here as much as I am to anyone else. When I first saw hints of this in my own heart it scared the hell out of me. I was tempted to create not for the love of the Creator but the love of the praise that my creation achieved. There is nothing wrong with receiving praise and recognition for your art so long as it is not the motivation. My prayer is that in this age of social media we will not lose sight of our first call. That we will remember what moved us to create in the first place; a desire to capture and share the glimpses of greater realities and to share in those realities ourselves. To see more clearly. To learn. To grow. To love. To inspire. To draw others closer to their Creator. This is true beauty. And this is why we were created to create.
Photo cred: rainonawindowpane.tumblr.com