Extravagant Wastefulness

23 Oct

Sara Groves has a new album coming out soon. In preparation for that, she allowed a film crew to follow her around while she ran errands, and what came out spoke to me loud and clear.

She speaks about how pragmatism has infected every institution, including the church. We focus on usefulness, and as a singer and songwriter, she thinks it is the artist’s job to push back on that undercurrent. Artists, in order to create, need to take up an amount of space that seems extravagant and wasteful to the rest of the world.

I have found that to be true as a writer as well. My professor would say, “If writers don’t take time to be contemplative, who will? That is our role in society, to be brave enough to do nothing. To sit and think. To go on long walks in the rain and to not speak until we have something to say.” When I went to study writing, I worked hard and fast. I was considered productive and useful. As my teacher, she pushed me to slow down, to count doing nothing and sitting and thinking as the most necessary part of the process. Writing stopped seeming like production and started feeling like art. It started to feel decadent and wonderfully extravagant. If I rushed, I could produce something, but it didn’t glow. I had to embrace the subversive parts of the creative process. I had to be wasteful with my time.

Groves reminds us that the push to be useful is so strong that when we take a break to contemplate or create or do nothing, we feel guilty. We have to carve out time to take Sabbath, to take a long walk, to let God speak to our hearts. The children, the older folks, the artists, the homeless, they are good at taking up this space. They have let go of this drive to be useful and sit in the pocket of being. They are inviting us into this extravagant wastefulness where we are not useful, we are not productive, but there is space for God to speak. There is space for beauty to be created.

Being a working mom, I am struggling to carve out that time. I want to return to it, but how? Taking a whole day off does feels extravagant and wasteful. And essential. So I am beginning as I always do, with small steps. I am going to pick a day each week to stay away from my phone and computer. I am going to let my child invite me into a whole day of extravagant play. I know, deep down, God will meet me there in that space. The space the world may call wasteful, God calls sacred.

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