Bad Jokes, Silence, and the Mystery of Creation
Dr. Claire Bordelon Masterson is back with a beautiful reflection on her latest creative outlet: Calligraphy! With the wisdom of JPII and Cardinal Sarah, she shares about the power of silence and our need to create. I hope you enjoy this. My friends are so talented!!
My favorite joke of the New Year has been “guys, I’m a calligrapher now,” said as pretentiously as possible. The joke of it all is that I spent the first half of my adult life in a highly analytical environment working toward a PhD and the second half immersed in the busyness that goes along with teaching at a high school. Both have been wonderfully formative experiences, but I have always found something lacking in each. For a long time, I would explain away the vague discontent I felt as a need for a “creative outlet” (a pretentious enough claim in itself). As an attempt to remedy that, I turned to calligraphy as a way to occupy my dwindling free time. I have always loved the beauty of calligraphy and I figured that, since I had decent handwriting, I’d give it a shot.
Having little inspiration for what I wanted to write, I turned to the Church – scripture passages, quotes from saints, things I was reading at the time. All became a canvas on which to explore my newfound art form. As I worked, however, I began to notice a difference between this sort of creation and the work in which I was otherwise engaged. While grading papers, writing lesson plans, or even doing my own schoolwork, I have always preferred to have background noise. Be it Netflix, film scores, or even just white noise (that last one was during a particularly low point while writing my dissertation) I have always found the need to maneuver around what I believed to be the complete void of silence. However, since I have begun calligraphy, I have found that I prefer silence while working to any other sort of distraction. At first, I believed this to be a result of my intense concentration or just absorption in a task that I found immensely satisfying; however, the silence that embraced me in the little corner of my house used for calligraphy has gradually spread to other areas of my life. My prayer has become more meditative, the TV is turned on less and less frequently, I reach for my phone more rarely, and, perhaps most significantly, the indefinable fear I had of silence has begun to dissipate. My reaction was a mystery to me until I read these words by Cardinal Sarah in The Power of Silence:
Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God (56).
This act of creation, which Pope Saint John Paul II said in his Letter to Artists “leads men to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise,” had led me to a silence and stillness that I have rarely experienced. This relationship between creation and silence is not a coincidence or, I believe, unique to myself. In the act of creation, we are participating in an innate gift of human nature that naturally draws us into communion with God. That communion with God is nurtured and deepened in the elusive quality of silence that can, quite honestly, be replicated by nothing else.
The more I think on this connection between silence and creation, the more awestruck I become by it: God drew all of creation out of the silence and stillness of The Beginning; Christ, the Word made flesh and maker of all things new, entered the world in the stillness of the night; Mary, the vessel of Christ’s incarnation took all that she saw and pondered these things in her heart. The list goes on and on. More importantly, this act of creation doesn’t have to be as an artist specifically since, as our friend JPII says, “as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.” My hope is that all of us can begin to love silence and, in doing so, build a life that hints at the mystery of God’s own creation. Also, try calligraphy. You’ll love it.
Claire Masterson is a teacher (some days more than others). When she's not inspiring high schoolers to give literature a shot, or gracefully figuring out newlywed life with her husband JP, you can find her at home in Breaux Bridge calligraphing--is that a word? I don't know I'm not the one with the Ph.D. in English. You can follow Claire's calligraphy adventures... IG + FB: @mastersoncalligraphy, etsy: mastersoncalligraphy or www.MastersonCalligraphy.com.