The Alumnx Council of PSR meets bi-monthly. As a practice, they take turns sharing “This I believe.” We’ll post these inspiring testimonials as they are created.
This month’s post is from Loey Powell (MDiv ’77)
I believe that art and artists have always and will always save our souls in ways we often don’t even recognize. Whether that art is visual or auditory, three-dimensional or flat, in constant motion or absolutely still, art has the capacity to reach deep into our inner beings when we least expect it to.
I began thinking about this in conversation recently when the topic was the complete unpredictability and craziness of human behavior, like what is being displayed in our current political scene. Couldn’t there be better ways to understand why people think and feel the way they do? Aren’t we smart enough to figure all this out? As if it were possible to truly understand why we are the way we are.
Because we humans think, reason, self-reflect and have feelings and memory, we believe in divine forces, mystical zones, and mythical places to try to explain what cannot be explained. All religious and sacred traditions have tried to understand the complexity of being human and probably the most gracious offering of these traditions is that of forgiveness. Because we stumble all over ourselves time and time again.
But art and artists dwell, I believe, in their finest forms, in the middle of all that stumbling. The material they have to work on is endless and the creativity needed to grapple effectively with it is also endless. Otherwise, all the music that needed to be composed would have been composed; all the paintings that could ever capture our living would already be in museums; all the dances would have been performed and recorded and archived away; all the poems penned and analyzed.
But art keeps pouring out, like the two- and three-story murals painted on the sides of buildings here in Cleveland in some of the most depressed neighborhoods, which bring color and life and beauty and hope for regeneration.
I believe that the art and the artists that touch our souls help us embrace the immense not knowing with which we live with more compassion and understanding. Maybe nothing is more revealing than the improvisational riffs of a jazz musician who is telling us in that moment precisely what they are feeling. Or the spontaneous dance that erupts in the lines of marchers protesting the latest outrage enacted against yet another young Black man or woman or child or transgendered person. Or the poem written to express the mystery of love or the ravages of grief.
This I believe: that the artist in each of us will keep alive our better angels so that the community in which we live is, indeed, beloved.