Americans have moved so far away from the process of butchering and a lot of us have sworn off eating meat due to health reasons, or for the sake of morality, that we can’t bear to trap the mice living in the couch or the spider making a web behind the toilet. Most of us are removed so far from the family farm and rural life that we have lost even secondhand experience of the cost of blood and butchering. If we buy meat at all, it is sealed in plastic and perched on a white tray with a diaper underneath to absorb offensive liquid.
So we enter the swim of people, words, laughter, a table laden with desserts, the dusky scent of coffee steaming from the cup in my hand as familiar faces sift through the crowd. And amid the lovely clamor, I’m reminded that what we’re experiencing is something artists desperately need — this coming together, this connection. All art is a conversation. The artist of faith negotiates a rich and multifaceted dialogue with God, the work, and community.
If indeed “the medium is the message” there is something lacking, something too sterile and quick about holding hard plastic instead of bending a dog ear, penciling a note, or marking a beautiful scene or character to trace as my daughter likes to do. Indeed, a well-worn storybook is perhaps the most compelling evidence that our best reading — our best learning — is not primarily compelled by will but by love.
If I am compelled to teach because I long to see my students transfigured, then the act of teaching itself will also, in some way, transfigure me. This vocation, if I follow it, will burn out the impurities of heart and soul so that I may, however faintly, carry glory.
On the other side of anxiety, I always feel a mixture of amusement and renewed lucidity, secured by a corrected sense of what is and is not reality, grateful that I can see the truth plainly. Unlike my husband, who gives me incredible grace in this area, I regard the part of my brain that believes in the anxious and ridiculous with impatience and disdain. As a writer, I am grateful for my imagination, but when my anxiety is at its worst, I wish for the rational, calculating mind of an accountant or a doctor.