Creative Resistance and Beauty….

I’ve been meaning to blog on this for a while, but I’m just now getting to it.  This post is for anyone who wants to read it, but I must confess, it is more a dialogue I need to have with myself (yet I welcome any comments).  Often when I read or experience something, I have to communicate with it through written word.  I think better when I write as opposed to when I speak.  So please forgive me if I’ve ever spoken to you and it didn’t make sense…it very well didn’t.  Hahaha

First, some context:  We’ve been living and working in Korea for almost three and a half months.  I’ve studied the stages of culture shock in my schooling, and I’ve traveled to other countries, but the longest I’ve ever been in another country was two months (Albania 2005).  Therefore, I’ve never lived in another country other than my own, long enough to pass the “honeymoon phase” of culture shock and actually experience the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical toll that being away from home can have.  Especially a culture so drastically different.  My whole worldview has been primarily shaped by Western philosophy and ideology (I am using ‘worldview’ in this post to describe one’s entire framework for understanding and interacting with the world).  Now, I find myself immersed in an Eastern worldview.  It’s full effects are still incomprehensible to me, but I can at least pinpoint some of my responses (some unintentional).

The first and most obvious toll is exhaustion.  I find myself more tired more often than when I was in the States.  Part of that I think is the adjustment to the new routine, part of it is all the learning that goes into surviving and being successful in a host culture, much of it is due to all the energy that goes into teaching 700+ students per week, and much of it is due to the language barrier.  Not being able to communicate needs and expectations to and from people who I work with is a huge expenditure of energy.  Even though I work in the English department, and my co-workers can speak English, they think in different modes, and understand with different worldview filters, thus causing a LOT of unintentional miscommunication.  If I’ve learned anything so concretely while being here, it is this: Language is SO MUCH MORE than words and body language.  Language is ALSO worldview.

Secondly, I’ve noticed as a response to this new culture (this could be connected to my exhaustion) I have been less motivated to do the things that I know are important for nurturing my soul.  Some things that I know nurture my soul are: music, reading, writing, exercising, prayer/contemplation, meaningful time with Jill, and deep conversation with close friends (i.e. accountability).  These are not the only things, but these are the primary ways I connect with God through nurturing my soul.

Now, I still make time to listen to music, but I’ve felt a stronger and stronger pull to pick back up playing music instrumentally.  Some of my favorite memories lie in the moments I shared with band mates as we performed beautiful pieces of orchestrated music.  So, I’m considering purchasing and learning a new instrument.

As far as reading goes, I have done far less since coming to Korea.  I love to read, especially books that challenge/transform me, but alas, I have done very little.

Exercising?  Again, other than the exorbitant amount of required walking that I do getting places in Korea, I have not had a good routine yet.  There is a small mountain only a few blocks from where we live, and I’ve been to hike it once, and I’ve wanted to incorporate it into an exercise regime, but I have not.

The primary way I nurture my soul is in prayer.  I love the deepest moments of prayer.  The moments when I find my true self, where all the illusions are gone, and where I am found in God. This is the thing I confess I have not done well at, and also the thing that I face the most resistence in my efforts towards doing them.

However, on a high note, the thing I feel has gotten better since coming to Korea is meaningful time with my beautiful wife Jillian.  We are experiencing so many things together here.  Our common struggles with being in a new culture have created a deeper solidarity between us.  Our lack of knowledge, and our desires to learn more about Korea have driven us out to explore and experience our host country together.  We have no T.V. (because we don’t want to buy one), and so we talk more.  We eat dinner together at our table and discuss our day’s triumphs and conflicts.

Deep conversation with close friends is obviously something we lost in coming to Korea.  Not that we haven’t made friends yet, but that deep conversation requires deeper relationships, and those kind of relationships can take time (and effort).  Therefore, my life of accountability with close friends has been non-existent.  Accountability is the act of purposefully and intentionally walking together with a friend(s) who holds you accountable towards being a better and more self-less person,  and a better lover and follower of Christ.  Even in pursuing and looking for a friend like this, I have faced resistence.  But God has been answering some prayers, and now I will be beginning an accountability relationship with two great friends here in Korea!

Sorry for being long-winded in my ‘context,’  but here now is what I wanted to quickly dialogue with.  I was reading this in Donald Miller’s book: “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years.”  As I was reading, it struck me in the face, and I knew it to be true.  Interestingly truth has a way of doing that.  When you find it (or more appropriately, when It finds you), it is undeniable.

Donald Miller is quoting the book, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield when he writes:

“…every creative person, and I think probably every other person, faces resistance when trying to create something good.  He even says resistance, a kind of feeling that comes against you when you point towards a distant horizon, is a sure sign that you are supposed to do the thing in the first place.  The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be.”

The thing that makes this quote so powerful to me is that every time I think about doing something that nurtures my soul, or gives beauty and love to others and the world, I face resistance.  I face this feeling that says “it’s not worth it”, or “you won’t be able to accomplish it”, or “you’re not good enough.”

Miller goes on in his own words:

“There is a force in the world that doesn’t want us to live good stories.  It doesn’t want us to face our fear and bring something beautiful into the world.  I guess what I am saying is, I believe God wants us to create beautiful stories {with our lives}, and whatever it is that isn’t God wants us to create meaningless stories, teaching people around us that life just isn’t worth living.”

I don’t know if this is true for you, but it has been true for me in my life…and it has really been true for me since coming to Korea.  This resistence, surprisingly, has been more pronounced as I find myself in a culture where I have much less control.  I face a great resistence that would rather me see my time here as meaningless.  It would rather I keep my head down, it would rather me not nurture my soul, it would rather me not create beauty with my life.  One of the greatest illusions of all is this: ‘life is meaningless, and you are worthless.’  Let us choose to reject this resistence that seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy.”  Let us push into the resistence, and face our issues, and live lives of beauty and meaning.

amen (let it become).

My favorite graffiti artist who goes by ‘Bansky’ and whose work can be found all over the world, has a painting that I think beautifully portrays “creative resistance.”  Here it is:

P.S.  Buy this book:  “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”

2 thoughts on “Creative Resistance and Beauty….

  1. Andy,

    Read your post. When I saw this comment I had to respond:
    “Therefore, my life of accountability with close friends has been non-existent. Accountability is the act of purposefully and intentionally walking together with a friend(s) who holds you accountable towards being a better and more self-less person, and a better lover and follower of Christ. ”

    Part of this is by choice! I’m still here.

    • Kevin,

      Yes, I totally agree. I’m in no way placing blame on anyone but myself, for the lack of accountability in my life since coming to Korea. I must confess that though technology allows us to be connected, it is much more difficult to connect when we can’t be in physical proximity to one another. However, this does not mean I don’t want to continue the relationship and mentorship you and I have had. I really appreciate your comment “I’m still here.” I would like to set up a regular Skype time for us (even if it’s every-other week).

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