Sunday, April 6, 2014

What is moon?

In 2008 I started Art school. I entered not knowing what to expect, my head full of scary stereotypes of what art school would be like. Okay... I envisioned embittered art school teachers whose only joy would be that of messing with the minds and emotions of fragile artistic newborns. We all know the image I’m talking about. So, I felt trepidation but was eager as I sat down to my very first class, “Creative Processing”. The name alone made me uneasy yet intrigued.

A shy person, I ordinarily seek to go unnoticed and most definitely uncalled upon in classes, especially those as intimidating as this. A class of less than twenty, lit by only a few lamps, the new faces of unfamiliar classmates arranged around me as we all sit, equally nervous, around two large wooden tables. The instructor circles around us like a vulture circling dying carcasses, sensing our fear. He seemed to me the type of man who sought pleasure in playing duck-duck-goose with his eyes, the type of “progressive” teaching method that forces class participation… from everyone… the type of teacher who doesn’t easily fit into any category in my mental filing cabinet of teachers past. The kind of teacher that uses the word “gifts” instead of “homework”, claiming a gift is when you give out a part of yourself, which is what is expected from homework in art school. Unpredictable, this one was, which made him dangerous, because I knew at some point before I could collect my three class credits, I would be forced beyond my comfort zone into doing something truly agonizing. And that’s when he explained it. Our first class assignment.
“Consider moon. Let moon consider you. Bring moon to class.”

Now, to let you know about moon, the teacher demonstrated his example of moon. He brought before us a manila envelope and extruded a single sheet of blank white paper, which he presented to us as moon.

Just kidding, he says. He crumples the paper into a ball and holds it up. This is moon.

After a few minutes of pointing out why this ball of paper is moon, he confesses he was just kidding, and unwrinkles the ball. This is the real moon. See? The texture of the moon.

After that he exclaims that in fact that was not moon. He throws paper to the floor and stomps on it. This is the real moon. See? Niel Armstrong’s footprint!

Just kidding, of course. He picks up the paper and sticks it to the wall with a tack. This. This is moon. See, we are looking out an 8.5×11″ window at the moons surface! Just kidding. The tack is the moon! The paper is just the representation of the atmosphere around moon. Just kidding again! The tack is a satellite sitting on the surface of the moon.

Nah. Just kidding. He removes the tack from the wall, but the paper stays on the wall from the force of the insertion. THIS IS MOON! See? The hole where the tack was? That’s moon. Or is it?
He blows on the paper, and our freshly confused just-entered-art-school eyes watch it sail to the ground. We then turn our eyes to the now empty wall.

Hah! Got you. The wall isn’t moon. YOU THOUGHT WALL WAS MOON! Oh man, I had you for a second! Wall is not moon, silly. The hole where the tack pierced the wall is moon! A dot in the vast universe of wall.

When I first got this assignment I was angry at its obscurity, scared I was missing something, and convinced this was just a bunch of scare the art students horsepocky. We all were. But I soon learned the importance of this assignment and just what exactly my teacher was trying to illicit within his students. Over the next few weeks we discovered that “moon” can be anything. You see my friends, they were all moon. "Moon" is just a placeholder for anything. It's that vast blank canvas you are facing, it's that blank slate.

After the “Consider Moon, let moon consider you” assignment came our next assignment: New Moon. This meant that considering moon once was not enough. No “fewf, that assignment is over with, it’s got to get easier from here”. Every class we had to bring New Moon. That meant we had to have considered moon still more, as evidenced in our sketchbooks (or as my teacher calls them, “sausages”… all the chewed on, ground up, even the undesirable bits.. all our “considerings”.. bound up in one place).

We learned not to think within the box and not to settle for a first attempt. Not to settle for a second attempt. Not even to settle for a third attempt. But to keep going, keep “considering” all possibilities, all qualities of "moon".

The strange and wonderful thing about this one assignment that I found so profound as to call my blog after it, is that at the time I was already undergoing some spiritual changes in my life. A Christian all my life, I was starting to understand a whole new, supernatural side of a religion that felt dead. God was changing my paradigm on almost everything at the time... bringing everything back to life. Along with this came a desire to seek, research, and study all. When the "Consider moon" assignment came along, it gave a name to what I was experiencing. The confirmation doubled my enthusiasm. And the practicality of the assignment is so vast, it can be applied spiritually, academically, artistically.

I even admit just coming back to "consider moon" can pull me out of a frantic or anxious mental state, as a kind of reality check. Like trying to figure out what to wear in a mad dash because you are late for work... it helps me to remember that today is a blank slate, and if I end up wearing something I don't like, there is always tomorrow to try something different. If I screw up a painting, I can always paint over it, or leave it for a few weeks and try looking at it again with fresh eyes.

As part of my considering moon I searched through the Bible to discover endless urgings from the Lord to His people to “consider” this or consider that. If I did not already know that God wants his people to use their brains, I certainly found it out through this assignment. It thrilled me to know end to feel within my spirit the Lord come alongside me in this and reveal to me His desire for those who seek wisdom: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2).

For some time my favourite verse has been a translation of 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 from The Message which I felt for many years was urging me to a real authentic Christianity.

“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”

I did not know how to achieve the freedom and expansiveness that Paul was speaking of. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, my prayers for wisdom and revelation, and how God has used Moon to give me an example of how to not settle for what “seems to be”, or the most obvious answer, or even the answers that the whole world may be so sure of, but to press on for more… more of Him, more Truth, more reality, more creativity. Consider Moon has become my mantra and my motto, as well as a pretty entertaining story.

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