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Culture

The True Purpose of Art

Jaine Toth | Aug 21, 2015

PART 3 IN SERIES Art Faith and Spirituality

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Jaine Toth | Aug 21, 2015

PART 3 IN SERIES Art Faith and Spirituality

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Art has a purpose. It should stir both the intellect and the emotions, and then motivate people to action. Therefore, I try to direct the majority of my art to issues within myself or society that cry out for attention.

I began by addressing my acting to works that might move others to action. I especially appreciate drama that addresses social problems like women’s issues and racial unity. I performed as part of Re-Generation, an inter-racial group that presented a program called Soul-Searching, which addressed race relations in the United States. These types of programs are important because:

Art is an antidote for violence. – Rollo May, quoted in Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual, by Larry Chang.

The Baha’i teachings say that the arts have the power to:

…promote the well-being and harmony of all the kindreds of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 72

Why? Because art has the unique ability to awaken noble sentiments in the mind and move the soul, much more than a simple rational discussion ever can. I work out questions of life, frustration, fear, and anger with the pen, and I find it cathartic. The vast majority of my writing, though, tries to express joy. It celebrates life, filled with hope and expectation.

The more feedback I get from people who’ve been touched by the message I convey, whether through a performance, poem, story, newspaper column, or workshop, the more determined I become to further hone my skills and reach out through the arts to my human family. When someone tells me of an actual change it spurred them to effect in their own life, I know that it was not my words they connected with, but the spirit that moved within me.

Woman-singing-prayerAnd I’ll share a secret with you. I never really gave up singing and dancing. I sometimes use song and movement in offering my prayers, provided of course, I have complete privacy when doing it. Try it sometime. You may find a whole new dimension in your communication with God.

I also found an outlet for hands-on art. I now make handmade cards and decorate gourds, and those projects have opened up a whole new area of creativity. Seeing a finished product adorning my walls and shelves, seeing faces light up when they receive a card that was created just for them, is deeply satisfying.

In the process of creating, interpreting and presenting my art, I’ve undergone significant changes. I’m more in tune with who I am, and am delighted to admit, I now like myself! Not only don’t I mind being alone with Jaine anymore, I definitely enjoy it.

My discovery of art has created a spiritual strength within that I wish I’d had in my younger years. It has served me well in times of crisis. Some of this results from coming to terms with who I am: identifying my God-given talents, developing them, and putting them to practical use. But it also comes from prayer.

For most of my life, when I prayed, I’d beseech God for some specific need or want, but I’ve gotten to the point now where that feels presumptuous. Besides, what I wish for might not actually be in my best interest, or the best interest of another person for whom I may be praying. Rather than ask for what I want, I let God know what is in my heart and then pray only for His will. I try to humbly ask that if His will be other than what I hope for, that God might give me the strength and wisdom to accept it without feeling hurt, let down, sad or bitter.

I still have my moments of frustration and anxiety, but I’m able to recover from them faster. I’m still moving boulders, but each one shrinks my shadow mountain and adds to my mountain of enlightenment. All this has come about through faith—my faith in a loving, benevolent, yet just, God, and my understanding that His wisdom obviously transcends mine. Yes, I’ve learned, Faith can move a mountain.

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