Father Richard’s ‘Thought for the Day’
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from the Hay Festival on Saturday 26th May 2018
The town of Hay on Wye is arguably one of the most famous little towns in the world. We are not much bigger than a village, yet we are internationally known because of the Annual Hay Festival.
The Festival showcases the creative blooms of poets, writers and musicians. Their works are rightly valued and celebrated. And yet the town of Hay itself is a community composed of many remarkable and gifted people quietly going about their lives. I am often reminded of the words of Thomas Grey’s ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’: “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen”.
Creativity, seen or unseen, is a natural part of the human condition. Therefore, not to be creative is not to be fully human. We are all involved in creativity in as many mediums as there are people; we create relationships, conversations, new lives, homes, hospitality, communities and civilised societies as well as great works of literature, art or music. In other words, the home is as much a venue for creativity as the concert hall.
But creativity is also connected to personal cost. Many authors, writers, artists and musicians produce their most inspired work during times of grief, despair or oppression – one example being the Russian writers and composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Shostakovich, for example, did not have the right to compose freely, yet he defied the Soviet censors with his art.
There seems to be a profound connection between brokenness and openness in music, art and literature. Perhaps it is in the ‘telling of the tale’ that light can begin to penetrate the darkness of secrecy and suffering. As Leonard Cohen sang: “There is a crack… in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
In the gospels when Mary Magdalene came to Jesus to anoint him with costly perfume, its sweet fragrance could only be released when the alabaster jar was broken. Creativity very often happens, not in spite of – but because of – brokenness. It is in going through the difficult challenges life inevitably throws at us that increases our potential for growth in our relationships and pursuits. A broken heart can become an opened heart.
Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and so I believe that to be truly human, we have the ability and vocation to be co-creators with God. As we in Hay this week visibly celebrate the creativity of literature and the arts, so we as the resident community celebrate the many unseen and unsung acts of creativity, beauty and kindness that take place here each and every day.