In his recent column, Among Friends in Friends Journal, Gabriel Ehri wrote; “When we are privileged to experience great art, we experience wonder: wonder at sheer beauty, at discovering a novel avenue of our own perception, and often wonder at the seemingly impossible fineness of the artist’s execution. Art, like worship, can allow us to tap deep into our own stores of emotion and spirit, and even move us to tears. Where the two notably differ is that as Quakers our worship aims not just at its own experience, but also to provide both a venue and a forum for giving voice to the divine spark within.”
In my mind what is art for if not to give “a venue and a forum for giving voice to the divine spark within”? The divine spark, inspiration. Where does inspiration originate? I have pondered this question my entire life.
The origins of the word inspiration itself go back to the 14th century. From the Oxford Dictionary, Middle English enspire, from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe’. The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone’
To impart a truth or idea to someone, isn’t that the intent of art? In that sense it isn’t only artists that are inspired to create but a person can be inspired by partaking of the art.
I believe that spirit underlies all in the natural world and that by listening closely to that still, small, voice of the spirit within (a Quaker concept), I try to glimpse the spirit within the subject. So for me, creating is close to worship. I find that my mind is in the same state of receptivity to inspiration.
Creating, viewing, hearing or reading an inspiring work of art puts me in touch with the truth or spirit. That sense of rightness or wholeness or holy-ness that ironically, considering the origins of the word, make it hard for me to breathe when I am in its presence.