Suffering and Creativity

March 28, 2006


The March 2006 issue of Smithsonian features an article on Edvard Munch, the emotionally troubled Norwegian artist who became famous for his piece entitled The Scream. The painting, article, and the artist caused me to ponder three questions. (1) The "panicky power and psychological urgency" of the painting has become the picture of our age "– wracked with anxiety and uncertainty." Why has our age become so characterized by anxiety in spite of our more refined standard of living? I think my son put his finger on part of it in his post about Flamenco dance as a sample of what's happening in all art forms. The intimate nature of a personal performance (an encompassing relationship) gives way to a splashy, more sensationalistic production. Mass production on a large scale requires mechanization and that, by definition, is depersonalizing. When people are stripped of their unique personal identity and find themselves "fitting in" only as "production output units" or cogs, they lose their secure base of groundedness and become anxious about the very meaning of their existence. (2) Would he have been more creative if he had been free from his ailments? The article brought out that Munch's fragile physical health was as problematic as his emotional misery. He "had tuberculosis ans spit blood as a boy" and lived with a profound sense of death's imminence. He "sought peace, but drinking heavily and brawling publicly, he failed to find it." In a quarrel with a woman, he shot himself and lost a finger. He never married, but called his paintings his children and would not be separated from them. Over against this tragic life, the article skillfully highlights the genious of his work. (3) Was this sensitive artist entrapped in a web of faulty thinking? I think so. He is quoted in the article as having written:

"Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder. . . . My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

I think that was as faulty belief on his part. I think his ailments and suffering served to distract him and detract from his full potential. Furthermore, his full creative talents were further thwarted because he carried a heavy load of guilt and did not believe in God. He "could not set himself free from his fear of life and thoughts of eternal life." Had he been right with God, his art would have been even more sensitive and his creative genius set free all the more. My belief is that our sufferings are productive only as we relate them to the sufferings of our Savior in such a way that we can know Him more personally. This whole thing leaves me, though, with a lot of questions about the relationship of suffering and creativity.

A Day in the Country

March 27, 2006

I just spent a day in the country north of Dallas with my good friend Bob Bender and his lovely wife, Becky.  In good company, you can experience exhilaration and relaxation all at the same time.  Bob shared a segment of a lecture about C.S. Lewis that he got from The Teaching Company.  His fresh insights about miracles provided a stimulating discussion about the timelessness of God and how "beyond us" He is.  Then, riding on an electric cart through herds of deer, trying to connect with the roaming donkeys, and just breathing the fresh air with no agenda but to savor "the now," made all the tensions disappear.  One of the many things I enjoy about Bob is that he knows how to enjoy life, but he never loses sight of the Source of his blessings.  Becky gave me a great new idea, that of posting my favorite charities and what they mean to me personally.  I always come home from our visits feeling richer because of our time together.

Away from Campus a Long Time

March 24, 2006

“It’s been such a long time since I was here as a student that all my old professors have turned into buildings.”

— Don Wyrtsen at yesterday’s Dallas Seminary Chapel

Don then demonstrated five stages of worship music in the American church, starting with the “New England School” and ending with the current trend of “Celebration” music.  Before I heard his presentation, it seemed to me that we need to choose between “contemporary” or “traditional.”  After his presentation, I agree that the five different styles are simply colors on an artist’s palate, to be used appropriately to fulfill the Psalmist’s exhortation to “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”  It was also a delight to see a gifted man share his gift with a spirit of fun and substance. 

Integration of Theology and Psychology

March 21, 2006

CAPS Logo 2000.jpg

"Integration" means a lot of different things (Try doing a Google search on the word) depending on whether you're into sociology, technology, or another "-ology." For me, it's about integrating theology with psychology. I'm a Southwest Region Board member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) which seeks to explore this integration. I also work at Dallas Theological Seminary where eleven professors developed a "Statement of Belief" a few years ago. I like the statement that we seek "to address life and ministry from a theological perspective that is controlled by Scripture, consistent with evangelical Christian tradition, and critically conversant with contemporary psychology." 


March 20, 2006


My wife and I went to this show last Friday night and it was a fantastic experience.  I was particularly struck by the gentleness with which the horses were treated and the respect that characterized the relationship between horse and human.  What a model for our marriages if we could treat each other with such attunement and responsiveness.  I am not trying to set up an analogy between trainer/horse and husband/wife, but there are aspects of the dynamics of interplay that are inspiring. 

Fathering: Traditions and Innovations

March 18, 2006

The basic requirements of adequate fathering remain constant throughout the ages. Each age, however, presents its own challenges that require new thinking to contribute effectively to the development of our children. Read the rest of this entry »

Providing Emotional Immunity to Drugs in Your Children

March 18, 2006

Addiction is a relationship with a mood-altering substance. Addictive behaviors replace a person’s capacity for intimate relationships. Drug-proofing you children must require more than demanding that the public schools and police “do something” and conduct “Drug Education”. Why do some children seem to have an immunity to the temptations of drugs, while others succumb to its lure with little resistance? Drugs fill a void. They relieve emotional pain (temporarily). The underlying unmet needs of your children must be identified and understood in order to eliminate to vulnerability to drug use. Before there was “peer pressure” or the illusion of “safe drugs” or “safe sex”, your children were designed and created with intrinsic needs. In addition to the “God-shaped hole” in each of us reflecting our intimacy need vertically for communion with God, there are ten “soulish” or emotional needs that constitute horizontal needs for intimacy with other humans. Meeting these needs is the best way to “drug proof” your children. It is also the only way. Read the rest of this entry »