We were just a group of five sitting around my coffee table drinking tea. But as we sipped, we experienced what the Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyu, developed with his art of tea: “communication equalizing any who took part.”
It was the second discussion in what I have called a “Conversation about Art, Faith, and Culture,” and this second meeting brought fewer than the first. Still, among the five of us we are single, mother, wife, grandmother. We are writer, photographer, musician, painter. We are in our 30s, 40s, and 50s.
We are artists, and when we drink tea, we are the same.
But according to Makoto Fujimura, in his book Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture, the art of tea was not to just bring people with differences around a table to make them the same for a few minutes of refreshment. The time around the table, not unlike the table Christians gather around at communion, was also a way of creating peace. Shalom.
As the five of us considered the community that can happen around art, we realized that it is the shalom that makes collaboration possible, even necessary. Fujimura describes it like this.
The world needs artists who dedicate themselves to communicate the images of Shalom. Jesus is the Shalom. Shalom is not just the absence of war, but wholeness, healing and joy of fullness of humanity. We need to collaborate within our communities, to respond individually to give to the world our Shalom vision.
Collaboration and community in art become a form or process for the world to see, exemplifying the same humility and love that Jesus offers to the world. As we release ourselves and others from perfectionism, as we help heal the wounds of hurt, as we patiently encourage younger artists: in all these ways we exemplify grace and minister peace to fellow artists and the world.
And of course, there were also cookies.
Before we talked art and peace and grace, even before we sat around and drank tea, we used knives and paintbrushes and bags with tips and made plain old sugar cookies works of art to share with each other.
And if we had stopped right there, fingers sticky, glaze dripping, colors bleeding into each other, we would have known more about art and collaboration than when we had started.
How does art bring shalom to your life? How do you use art to connect you with others?