Artist in Residence 2016, Lauren Ferebee
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
September 19, 2016
In Proverbs 8, Wisdom says:
Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. (vv. 1-5)
It’s been very challenging working on creating individualized contemplations to send over the last couple of months. One of the major reasons is that many of the challenges people have shared with me so far are also challenges that I find myself facing in some way.
– How do I trust myself?
– How do I cope with the dust settling?
– How do I share my gifts confidently and from a place of stability, compassion, genuineness?
– How do I find more patience in my daily life?
– How do I balance a creative life and a normal life?
In creating objects for these concerns, I am forced to look at each question in a new way, thinking what do I know about this? and also, how do I move beyond my fear that I don’t, and potentially will never know the answers to these questions?
Because fear is just a trick, right? Fear keeps us holding on to false answers that don’t serve us. If I have learned one thing through artistic practice this year, it is that contemplation is not, in fact, about answers. As Rilke reminds us in the ever-relevant Letters to a Young Poet, our job is never to hold fast to answers, but to seek instead for questions that we can love.
I’ll tell you, it’s been twelve years since I first picked up Letters, and loving questions is still a stretch for me. As part of the discipline of my project this year, I have seriously re-committed to a daily ritual of journaling and reading books on creative practice, and lately I’ve been working my way through Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. One of the things she speaks about is her own sense of rigidity – that questions ought to be answered, that the world is good or bad, right or wrong – and I deeply identify with that.
In engaging with these unanswerable questions, I have been forced to confront my own rigidity. It is uncomfortable for me to realize that sometimes I think I am living an answer (This is right for me.) when I have really been living a question (Is this right for me?).
It is even more difficult for me to settle into the tension of living a question, or many questions, because that tension keeps the door open to other answers – to the possibility that the answer might change. Living this way requires tremendous energy, and yet it also keeps the possibility of change alive within me.
One of my favorite podcasts is Krista Tippett’s, On Being. They recently replayed one of my favorite episodes with The Alchemist author, Paulo Coelho. Talking about his 34 years with his wife, he speaks of their marriage going through “many moments of destruction…but not destruction in a bad way. For example, just like you build a house, and then you say this house does not fit me anymore. So let’s reorganize, but let’s continue to live here. We don’t need to move…let’s reconstruct this house.”
To me, this represents a very deep wisdom: being able to move through moments when I realize that what I have held onto in my life no longer serves me. And those are the moments when only questions can serve as the bridge between my current life and what’s next. A brave and terrifying moment, when either I move forward or stay put.
“To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
‘Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
…which leads me to the thought that I have been pushing around these last few months as I work at my project: What if wisdom is just a series of ever-deepening circles of questions?
I’ll leave you with a few of the short pieces I have been composing for the book of hours I am creating. I also want to say thank you to those who have bravely shared their concerns with me and encourage anyone else who would like to receive a contemplative object to reach out to me at laurenbeth.ferebee(a)gmail.com.
The first day of new creation
The ordinary world
Americans depart but never arrive.
We always believe there is something waiting just over our shoulders.
If I arrived, what would I do next?
Leave. Leave. Leave.
I can’t leave.
I’m barely awake.
you’re an easy target and you know it, you’ve been told, so easy. So many versions of “are you sure” singing in your blood that describing reality makes you sick you can’t even say if your feet are on the ground.
So when someone asks you if you are OK, you can’t say with any certainty if you are falling down or taking off.
I don’t know how to carry you across this river of despair.
I love bridges but I am not one.
Could it be in these hot days of crossing over,
These ambiguous July afternoons
We might simply lose despair, like we lose ourselves, the boundaries of our skins,
To this gathering heat?
Will sadness evaporate?
In the waning days of American prosperity, this is what we witness:
The bones rising.
You who think you know what violence is:
Has anyone ever built an overpass on your body?
Let the silence of your death wash down a river?
I know more than a few people haunted by the ghosts of thousands.
The land has counted every day, every death.
You cannot keep secrets from the trees.
Read Lauren’s first and second posts to follow the development of her 2016 Artist in Residence project.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.