Art Is Better Than Religion

Mon cherie, it is my last day in Paris, which is a horrible, horrible thing, but you know, I, like anyone, have duties and I have obligations and one cannot just wander into her homeland/soul-land and stay forever, at least not yet, until the kids are grown.

And I have selected to write to you in a little cafe called Cafe Leo in the hip and artsy Marais area, which is an arrondissement that has a number, but I am not much one for numbers, and I can never remember where I go. The cafe is small and cute and reminds me of a cafe I sat in once in Ireland, and there is a lot of sage green and art on the walls, and I always gravitate toward the red and sometimes it is nice instead to be in a place inhabited by green.

Today I want to impress upon you the value of art, and how it is much better than religion, although of course both have value. The problem with religion is that it attracts people who very much love rules, and it, like any institution, is terribly prone to groupthink, and there is much egomania in religion just as there is in academia and in the corporate world, although I think the corporate world may have a leg-up on all of these, at least currently, because people’s hearts are changing and entrepreneurs are quite creative, and they sense the changes in society and make new products or services for them, and I’m becoming quite impressed. Where was I? Oh, religion. Yes, so religion is supposed to be this safe haven for us, this place of recuperation and where we find meaning, but really the place we will find meaning, oftentimes, is in a conversation with some strange and beautiful person, or it is while reading a magnificent book, where we quietly say to the author, You get me, or it is in petting an adorable little dog. And so, as Keats says, “Love is my religion,” and also, I say, “Art is my religion,” but I also have a habit of hanging out in these other little communities grounded in a Jesus-ish kind of faith.

At the end of the day, we are all hungry for a combination of the sacred and the sensual, because it is these two things that make us feel alive, but we don’t know where to find such a thing in one jazzy location.

In walks MotherJana.

Oh stop. Just stop all the applause. I mean, really.

I met a gentleman last night, a filmmaker with the soul and heart of an artist, who, like so many artists, struggles with how to make a living and at the same time pursue his passion, and adds all of these pressures to his day because he wants to be grand, he wants to create, and yet he is also an acute observer of the human condition and knows that what makes other people “happy” does not work for him. And artists walk around, mon cherie, often with a terrible loneliness inside, and it is because that loneliness is the place that makes us so ripe for making art, for being empathetic to people, for understanding creation and pursuing truth. If we thought we knew everything, if we had the utmost in satisfaction, if we had no cares or worries, we would not create art, you see. We would not often be compelled toward anything. We’d spend many restless days on our couches.

Except there is a different source through which one can create, and it does not have to be through depression or sadness, or the vacuum of the soul, and that is the source of Love and Compassion and Generosity. Works of art grounded in Source are rarer these days, but they do exist. We seem to adore, as a culture, the artists who smoke cigarettes and spend too many nights in bars, drunk. We watch them, we gravitate toward the violent and the despairing, we think that the creative soul must also be the tortured soul, but this is not the case.

Oh boy, the delightful, beautiful artists that have been born and lived and poured forth and passed on, and the new ones rising up, every day, vibrant and wide-eyed and unique, strange and weird and impossible to understand, and yet they leave these marks, these little moments of poignancy in a day that might be otherwise dreary, a vibrancy you didn’t know you wanted or cared for, but once you taste it, it is the utmost in a haven for you and you just consistently keep coming back, because there is no other way to live once you’ve drunk from the well of divine purity and beauty and an alternate version of bliss.

I’m not sure I’m making any sense. Do you think I am making sense? I apologize if I’m not, I just have all these Shakespeare passages I used to teach floating through my brain, all these poems by Marie Howe, all the lipstick stains I put on tiny slips of paper and handed out to passersby once, and made them giggle.

Your foundation, see, cannot be in a church. Your foundation cannot be in a job, or a group of people. Your foundation, always understand, is in you, and it is in God, and let’s start thinking up another word for this thing called God so it actually makes sense to us again. Your foundation and your root is in the pairing of these two essences. Your own purpose and will, and that Divine Healer’s purpose and will for you, become deliciously intertwined, and then you know you are walking in alignment, you are walking with purpose, you are held in the palm of the End-All, Be-All’s hand, and you are cared for and nurtured, all the days of your life.

It is through solitude one discovers this. A solitude that can be frightful and difficult at times, but once you move through the shadowy passages, it is a solitude and a rest in Divine Union, which exists everywhere, in all corners of the world and even in the most private places of your soul and flesh, and you know you are here, and this is it, and this is all, and the moment you are resting in now is all that is and ever was, and you are alive and breathing, and this is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Religion does not always teach this to you, because there are people who call themselves fancy names and walk down aisles asking you for money and telling you what to think all the time, and being told what to think is the opposite of creating, which is what you have been born to do. Your life is an act of creation, you know. You are born to live.

I have finished my cafe creme, which sucks. I think I will order another. And I will finish my book today, I suspect, and I will meet Jean-Luc at the Sorbonne, and I will perhaps buy some copy of a Shakespeare play, Othello, I think, and I will pray two times in a church, because churches are pretty, and I will pick up a ring of mine from a jeweler because it broke in the strangest way, and then I will find some cafe in Montmartre to sit in and sadly sip my last glass of wine, and say goodbye to Paris, for now, until next time.

It is glorious, so glorious, to be utterly and deliciously mine.



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