I don’t know much about John Ruskin. But maybe he knew something about living. Ruskin said:
Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.
I’m not so much worried about fine art as about living fully, deeply, integrated, connected to God. And I’ve been thinking about when you get two of three of those things–the head, the hand, and the heart.
In church we’ve been talking about the head (beliefs) and the hand (actions) going together. If you believe something, truly believe it and hold it to be important, then your actions should show it. That seems wholly true to me. If your actions don’t show your beliefs, what good are your beliefs? But there seems to be something missing. I think it’s the heart.
If you put the head and the heart together, you get a band. One I’ve been listening to a bit lately.
Their song, “Lost in My Mind” gets stuck in mine. It’s a great song. Getting lost in my mind is an easy tendency. “Oh my brother, your wisdom is older than me.” There is a notion in the song I dig:
How’s that bricklayin’ comin?
How’s that engine runnin?
Is that bridge getting built?
Are your hand getting filled?
Won’t you tell me, my brother?
Cause there’s stars
We can start
It’s that notion of work versus dreams. You are working, making a living, but are you filling your heart, your soul, with the good stuff? The wonders of the Universe. The deeper aspects of life that we miss entirely if we don’t pay attention: raising kids; watching a sunrise on the beach with someone you love; playing an instrument; staring at the stars; writing a book; whatever it is that fills your heart.
But if you have just your head and your heart, you are missing your hand: you are holding your dreams, but not acting on them. Not trying to build them.
It’s not easy to yoke those three things together and drive them forward. For me, thinking and dreaming come easy. It’s building that takes work and effort. And attention.
At 44 years old, I’m not one to let go of dreams. As a father, I’m not about to wildly chase a dream that doesn’t help, include, or provide for my girls. A conundrum? Maybe.
Sooner or later, if we’re lucky, we come to learn a pretty big lesson: it’s not all about me. Though I try to shape them, use them, and do the best I can with them, I didn’t make or create my head, my heart, or my hands. I have to admit there are bigger things, bigger hands, hearts, and minds at work than mine. And if I want to put mine out there and try to make something of them, it requires a couple things: faith and risk.
I get a daily e-mail to contemplate every morning from Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest, Christian mystic, founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action. This morning’s musings came together like this:
This is probably why Jesus praised faith and trust even more than love. It takes a foundational trust to fall or to fail–and not to fall apart. Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting. Then, and only then, will deeper love happen. It’s no surprise at all that in English (and, I am told, in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think falling is the only way to get to authentic love. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us. Very human faith lays the necessary foundation for the ongoing discovery of love. Have no doubt though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us.
We need our heads–our thoughts and our beliefs. We need our hands–our actions. And we need our heart–love, passion. And love is something that goes beyond us, is bigger than us, involves a letting go, a surrender; involves faith; involves God.
I’ve still got more questions than I’ll ever have answers. But I like to think about living life the way Ruskin describes fine art. And I like to think of giving my head, hand, heart, over to faith, to love, to God, and trying to build dreams, to build life, with a little Help.
* The photo at the top came from Living Outdoor. It represents something of a dream for me–living and writing outside in the woods, in a simple cabin.