I awoke this morning to see a single, male cardinal stopping to check on the sunflowers which I had planted seven weeks ago. Immediately after the cardinal’s departure, I observed two pair of mating Baltimore orioles, in vibrant yellow and black, come dancing ecstatically through the air to land—in inquisitive gesture—on the same flowers. The yellow petals on the sunflowers’ broad heads were all newly opened; each flower head tilted in perfect formation toward the early morning sun. All velvety, brown eyes gazed intently upward.
The depth and vibrancy of the colors on this natural set, as well as the movement around my small, garden’s viewing stage, brought me more pleasure in a few moments than my attendance to any extended, anticipated or formal human exhibition. The path to this moment had been an interesting one, taken in an effort to explore the concept of spiritual invitation.
Spiritual invitation is what we do when we make conscious decisions about the things we want to let into our daily lives, assuming we have the privilege of a broad range of life-style choices.
In first-world countries, after our basic needs have been met, many of us live our lives in a pattern similar to this: go to work; collect a paycheck; shop for stuff; manage (clean, arrange, exchange, rearrange and dispose of) stuff; go to sleep; then, repeat. Even the sacred act of eating, in an overly habituated pattern of living, becomes dull and underappreciated. When living on autopilot, we fail to taste the flavors and the miracle of a full plate of food.
Our household voluntarily chose a more simplified material life in order to create time for devotional work. Yet, there was a point at which, during my morning meditations–when addressing an emptiness in my heart, I was clearly being encouraged to revisit my aesthetic life.
As I first began exploring the issue of allowing aesthetic expression to reenter my life, my background in fine arts would have prescribed for me a return to the making of discrete art objects. I questioned stepping back onto this path, as I knew well the cycle of behaviors that often accompany this form of object-based, aesthetic activity. Emotionally, this road to aesthetic expression felt worn and narrow.
Interestingly enough, the question, inside of me, became something like this: “How can I cast a wider and more inclusive net for my aesthetic expression than I have cast before, have this expression be of service to others and not harm the environment?” What most people do not realize is how very environmentally costly and often damaging most fine-art making is.
Originally, the limited definition I had in place for the concept of “others” was a stumbling block, because I had continued to think of service and serving in terms of helping a human population. But, when I began to think in broader, environmental terms, I realized my specific needs for aesthetic expression, Beauty, environmentally conscionable work and service could all be combined and met with a more carefully planned garden, which would honor as extensive a local pollinator and bird population as I could, given my time and space circumstances.
Thus, as we explore our individual questions about spiritual invitation—what we would like to invite into our daily lives—we must remember to take a broad approach to the definitions of the words we choose to use—both in terms of questions and in terms of intuited answers, remembering that Grace will provide the most incredibly well tailored solutions to sincere inquiries.