“There’s got to be more to life than just makin’ out!" – Grease 2
Michelle Pfeiffer as Stephanie Zinone
Ok, my pop culture reference is kind of dated (and a little embarrassing), but she makes a good point!
Granted, Michelle Pfeiffer’s character was literally talking about making out with boys, but the principle is the same – many people (all people?) feel something deep inside tugging at us wondering: Is “making out,” getting by, making do – enough? Is there more to life than just being able to pay the bills, do a good job at work, taking care of our families, being successful, making progress? Is there some greater purpose or meaning to life?
A few weeks ago Todd and I attended the International Arts Movement Exchange in New York. I came away enthusiastic that I finally had some language to describe the things that I have been noticing for years. I am amazed sometimes that we have managed to come so far at Convergence as a community without this helpful language. I generally answer the question “so what IS Convergence?” with a series of “umm, well it’s sort like this… and sort of like that… and you know how...?”
I walked away from IAM convinced that it is time (passed time) to establish some concrete language, and I’m grateful to the brilliant people at the conference who have given me some of those tools. I am going to begin to process through some of my notes and develop that language here.
The first piece answers the basic question – “Why? Why Convergence? Why artists? Why churches? Why?
Wesley Hurd is working on a book called “He Said/They Said: The Cultural Conditions for Dialogue in the Arts.” He led a breakout session at the conference that exactly framed the rationale we’ve been operating under here at Convergence.
Hurd expressed that we have been living in a world that is experiencing the results of a deconstruction of our “mental and cultural constructs” which hold the possibility of ultimate truth. This disillusionment, due to the failure of so many of the promises of the enlightenment and the modern era (i.e. education, technical power and progress, free market, etc.) has resulted in a sense of hopelessness and relativity that is leaving us empty. However, we are (or have) moving(ed) through this to something else.
While the Church’s very message is that there is hope, meaning and truth to be had, we are not alone in this proposition. Hurd noted that, “In the Academy there is a group who have not given up on the idea that it is possible to search for Ultimate Truth.” Indeed, in essence, “art and art making is both an exploratory attempt at forming and answering deepest existential questions AND an artifact, evidence, trace, or the reality of the existential core of being human.”
So, there is this space in our current culture, in our current time, in our current world where the Church, Academy and art makers, dare I say it…☺…converge. Hurd calls this the “Critical Zone,” a “mental/spiritual space shared by both religious and non-religious persons.”
This is the beginning of our Convergence. Just acknowledging that the above is true. Saying from within our little church – “Hey there you artists and not necessarily Christian thinkers. I see that you have been exploring some interesting things like transcending the pervasive sense of hopelessness in our world, a desire for healing and reconciliation in our culture and a desire to find alternate value systems to out-of-control consumerism and environmental and social apathy. You are really effective at holding up a mirror and calling a spade a spade and recognizing trends in our world. Want to have a cup of coffee or something? I bet we might be able to learn something from one another. Maybe we even have things to contribute to one another.”
I know it isn’t a novel idea, but at this time building a bridge between two worlds that have (to greater and lesser degrees) alienated one another is a brave thing. And to be perfectly honest, the most worthwhile thing I can imagine doing. The new friends I have made over the last year are teaching me about possibility and the reality of changing the world one choice at a time, one person at a time. Some of them are artists; some are not. Some are people of a defined religious perspective; others are not. All of them have faith of some sort in something and a sense of the something else that is possible. In this “critical zone” in this “convergence” is where we’ve set up camp. It is exciting to us to be in a position to act on the observations and discoveries people like Wesley Hurd, Mako Fujimura and others involved with IAM are making. I have no idea where this is going to take us, but I’m looking forward to it.