If writing isn’t about reverence, reverently turning the evanescent and ephemeral into our version of the eternal, then what is it about?
— Anne LaMott, Bird By Bird
The notion that art is fundamentally about reverence, being tuned in to an awesome world, gratefully receiving what is around us and being transformed it, seems to be essentially feminine. Maybe masculine reverence is different, dutifully following a strict set of rules, but Mommy’s approach the world in a more nurturing way.
We take the experience of life in with joy and reverently convert that into art, struggling to convey the details which capture moments of awe.
The human story always brings out my reverence. When people are open and kind enough to share their stories with me, I always value them. I know that other artists revere other things — nature, movement, images, etc. — but for me, it is the tales which inform our lives, our theology.
We don’t live in a very reverent world anymore. Irreverence is much easier and less demanding, as it allows us to mock and reject the potent around us, removing the power to demand attention and change.
Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort,
some joke or epigram,
than with any amount of reasoning.
— Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Answers let us be comfortable in our own world. Questions demand we be open, respectful and reverent to a world that is much bigger than one human’s perception.
To be reverent is to always live in a world that is not totally knowable, a place where we still can be surprised, informed and humbled by that which we have not yet deeply encountered. You cannot be truly reverent with a closed mind and heart, believing that you already know all you need to know, that any challenges are just noisy distractions.
Reverence is shown in fascination. To be fascinated requires the willingness to follow your own curiosity, chasing the curious and learning something new. I am constantly fascinated by other people, wanting to drink them in and having learned how to do so quickly and in detail. It would be nice if other people were also fascinated by me.
Reverence is shown in gratitude. To be grateful for the people and events that open you up and help you grow, for the miracles that change your perception of the world is an act of reverence for gifts that you never expected, process that you embrace.
Reverence is at the heart of respect, not just respect for what we already know we like and value, but respect for the broad, queer diversity of the world.
I can’t imagine making art without being based in reverence. I can’t imagine living life without being based in reverence.
The gifts of a lifetime train and shape us, but so so more gracefully if we approach them with reverence.