“We’re making dirt, guys.”
The other day, Charles told us about this fellow, John Jeavons, who has been cultivating soil for decades. He has been painstakingly, gradually, birthing soil that is extremely fertile, totally organic, a nurturing environment from which just about any plant life could thrive. It is work that moves on a global timescale. “That’s what we’re doing here,” Charles said. “We’re creating a place; we’re adding nutrients to the soil. It’s taking a long time but we’re building a container where anyone could come and find the obstacles removed and find themselves or that spark or the time or the space to create really beautiful, really high-quality work.”
I like it. I think Charles is onto something. There has always been something about the Art Monastery that’s tricky to articulate. It has always been that when people come to visit, no matter how involved they’ve been with the project from afar, when they come and are physically present, they say, “Ah! I get it now.” There is something inarticulable in the project. But somehow this fertile soil metaphor opens up something for me.
We are cultivating fertile soil in which to nurture the creative spirit that already exists in everyone.
We believe that everyone has a creative spark.
We believe that spark is extremely powerful and the journey to find and nourish that spark is a spiritual journey.
We believe that spiritual journey is best nurtured within a group of other people on parallel paths.
Our job at the Art Monastery right now is to hone the process that we think will get professional artists to go into themselves, connect with that spark in a deep and powerful way, and then bring the manifestation of that spark out into high-level work that inspires and touches audiences. We believe that same process will work for anyone and everyone, including people who don’t think of themselves as artists. We will be honing and articulating and developing that process for decades to come.
Our job is also to teach that process to anyone and everyone. The point is coming to the fruition of your own purposes.
The point is not to tell the story in the artwork that is created (it is not about making spiritual art).
The point is that the process by which the work is made yields profoundly better work, but only because it yields profoundly more connected people.
At the end of the day, the point is not actually to make the best art in the world. The point is to awaken hearts. The point is to offer an incubator where an individual can come and connect with their inner truth. When you connect with what is terrifyingly true for you, you cannot help but connect with the people around you in an authentic way. When you do that, you also connect with nature and you get a sense of your place in a much larger context—the universe, even. When you are connected to yourself, to your community, to the planet, you are on a spiritual path. When you are asking those questions earnestly, supported by the people around you who are asking those same questions of themselves, you are going to be a fuller person. A fuller person is always going to make better art. The making of great art is an almost unavoidable side effect of doing serious inner work, as long as you bring the same discipline to the artmaking that you bring to your inner investigation.
For me, connection is the spiritual element. Connection to yourself, knowing yourself as a complicated weirdo and accepting that, knowing it, reflecting on it; sidling up to it, sitting down with it, offering it a cup of tea. Connection to your community, seeing, honoring, acknowledging the complicated weirdos you are in relationship with. Connection to nature, to the universe, to the shared consciousness or subconsciousness or unconsciousness, to God, to Christ consciousness, to Buddha consciousness, to truth, to life, to love, or to whatever you want to call it.
Does this make sense? Does this seem like something that is worth pouring everything you’ve got into? Does it seem worth investing your life savings and all your time for five years? I think so. I’m in for another 5. Or 50.