Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Meeting

An interesting day but that is for later.

I did something tonight that is very presumptuous—I attempted to associate with a group of ‘artists.’. That in itself if not unusual—the presumptuous part—but this time it was very disappointing particullarly because this was a group of Christian artists. 

Photographers often think of themselves as artists. With me it doesn’t really matter that much. What I do is for me and if I like it I am generally happy. However, I am interested in some facets of art. I am interested in art that talks about life or death. Art that talks about relationships. Art that is spiritual in content.

In that last regard I have been on a quest for sometime to understand in what ways art has spiritual content. I tried The Canvas Church. I am very fond of the pastor but Canvas is for a younger crowd that really doesn’t want to hang with a seventy-five year old. A few years ago I got on a mailing list from a group that is associated with a large Baptist church here in Houston. It clearly states that you do not have to be a member of the church to participate. This is from their website:

“_____ is for the Christian artist and art lover. Both amateurs and professionals of all skill levels find encouragement and inspiration… Community with other Christian artists
An outlet to love and serve the church as artists, while receiving support and encouragement from the church.”

That intrigues me. Even though I could not attend because of taking care of Janet and the meeting date conflicted with the camera club, I continued to read their monthly newsletter Finally, last month being free of the camera club, Alcy, Debi and I went to a class they did on writing an artist statement. I invited them because I thought they would be interested in the subject matter and besides I'm not wild about going into new situations alone. Well tonight’s meeting was to discuss the spiritual life of T S Eliot, who is among my favorite poets. I didn’t think anyone else would be interested so I went alone.

The place is difficult to find, there is a parking problem and they suggested getting a parking permit from the group so your car would not be towed. Because of that I made sure that I arrived a little early. When I arrived, two of the men spoke and shook hands. There were probably eight or so people already sitting around a table eating pizza. I asked for the parking permit and went back to put it on the dash. When I returned the lady that had unlocked the door directed me to sit in the meeting area. I walked to the end of the table and put my camera in the case. No one spoke. One of the ladies was asking around what people wanted to drink. She skipped me. I sort of got the message so I moved to the seating area. I had a brief conversation with the lady that had opened the door. Beyond that of the twenty some people there only one lady came over and said hello. 

Now maybe I am thin skinned but I am very familiar with an unfriendly club—just resigned from it. But so help me this group made Northwest look like the friendliest club in town. I had arrived about twenty minutes early, the meeting was at least twenty minutes late getting started. The twenty or so people moved from the pizza party to the seating area making a “U” around the sofa where I was sitting. I showered earlier so I don’t think that was the problem and flatulence was under control so that couldn’t be it. I wasn’t the best dressed person in the room but several were also wearing jeans.

Even though I considered excusing myself I wanted to hear what they said about Eliot so I stuck it out. They had invited a young black man to recite some of his poetry—to a sea of white faces. He sat on the couch. So when the meeting concluded I shook hands with him and thanked him for sharing his poetry. We had a brief conversation and I left the room.

I am sorry people but that is a very disappointing display for a group that professes to be Christians.  I may never have been inside their particular church, but I have been in dozens just like it. I am desperate but I am not sure I am that desperate.


  1. Well, I am sorry to hear that and it is definitely their loss if you choose not to go back. I'm afraid I've been on both sides of that situation. I've sure I've been in groups (church and otherwise) where we weren't as careful as we should have been to look around for newcomers and make sure everyone felt welcome and included. I've been on the flip side where I've gone into places where I knew no one and left still not knowing anyone. Unfortunately, that can happen in a church just like it can happen anywhere else. You showered before you left so I don't think that was the problem. LOL Truth be told, we have all been guilty of not taking the responsibility or making the effort to make sure others feel welcome in what might be a new situation. As I said, it was their loss. When I experience what you did, I try to introduce myself and strike up a conversation with at least one person (half the time, people around me don't know anyone either). And I usually leave promising myself that I will not be guilty of doing the same. Btw, what did you think of the guy's talk? You should offer to give it next time! :)

  2. Jan, thanks. Yes I do understand that in social situations it is often my reclusive nature that creates the problem is as much as anything. And yes, in club situations there is often the cliquish, comfortable interaction between members of the group that creates a reluctance to reach out. I just expect better of Christians, I expect Christians to be people that do reach out--without the flourish and rhetoric of instantly saving my soul by the laying on of their benevolent hand. What happened to ‘by their works?’ I know that I am as sorry an excuse as you can find so generally what I complain about is just as applicable to me. I simply wanted to understand how the members of the group used their art to honor their faith, something that I would like to feel I am doing a better job of doing. My loss to the group will not be noticed nor is of any importance--actually there is a line in Eliot's Lovesong that I enjoy and somewhat applies, "I am no prophet and here's no great matter. I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker. I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker. And in short, I was afraid..." So, I am still looking for something to replace the camera club. Was hopping this would be it. To a great extent the problem is that for most of my life I have consciously driven myself to a ‘simple’ person. I am put off by ‘deepness.’ I am not deep. I want to be bucolic, I want to be country simple, almost boringly simple. I am as bored with metaphysics as I am by hyperbole and the art world thrives on both. That is why I say it is presumptuous for me to even attempt such an association. It is probably as much that I was in the wrong environment as anything else. But someone please tell me where my environment is. To answer your question about the talk, I learned a lot about Eliot that I did not know, so that was good. I am not much into the lives of poets at least nearly as much as I am into the lives of photographers. As much as I enjoy poetry I do not pretend to understand much of it. I was aware that Eliot frequently used Biblical references. I was not aware that he converted from being a Unitarian to being Catholic so I will read some of his poems differently or with a different point of view in the future--looking for indications to the conversion. Sorry, I am in no way qualified to give a talk on Eliot--now if you want me to read The Hollow Men or possibly The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock--that's different. LOL (afternote: I have discovered that sometimes it is best not to know a lot about the lives of people that I admire. Almost every photographer whose work I enjoy was a flaming liberal or more likely an avowed Communist. The same goes for many of the poets that I enjoy reading. I really would rather not know that. LOL)

  3. Artists, by definition, are a weird bunch. I'm sure you know that. And just because they call themselves a Christian group in no way guarantees that every person in the room has had a life-changing experience with Jesus Christ. And even those who have are still sinners. So I would encourage you to go a few more times before you decide that it isn't for you. Perhaps there is something you can learn there and I know there is a lot they could learn from you.

  4. PS Btw, I think you are referring to "by their fruits" and "by their love" you will know them...

  5. Yeah, that is true but this group needs to get better at believably faking it. LOL Artist are weird? Jeeze, maybe I am an artist! Jan, I just don't fit in with many people or groups. Not sure how I stuck it out so long with NWHPC other than out of sheer desperation. Of course, I am equally confused by how they put up with me that long. j