Arts & Crafts 2

My kid, like me, started drawing as soon as they could hold a pencil. My parents were poor and not interested, so I wasn’t encouraged to explore my creativity or provided materials to do so. I spent a lot of time drawing on flattened, brown paper bags from the grocery store. I’ve made every effort to ensure that my kid has always had access to whatever art supplies they wanted and I’ve taught them — or put them in a position to be taught — a good handful of basic crafts. At twelve, they can sew — with a machine or by hand — and can make clothes if they have a pattern, use basic woodworking tools and play simple songs on a ukulele. They’ve done some dance and theater, made some short animations using stop-motion photography, and painted with watercolors, acrylics and oils. They’re a better artist than I was at twelve. Their drawing style right now is a very common cartoon style that’s all over the internet, but they have good eye-hand coordination, whether using a pencil or computer stylus, and they understand the rudiments of art. It’s been really fun for me to watch them develop from crayon scrawls to fully developed, original characters.

Of course, I know a lot more than they do. I’ve had forty more years to learn and experiment. But it’s still fun to see what they’ll do, how they’ll solve creative problems, and what they’ll come up with next. In addition to arts and crafts, they’ve gone through periods of being very interested in insects, semi-precious stones, frogs and now, plants. They’ve got a small jungle of succulents and other assorted small plants in their bedroom window. They’re also really interested in bones — we’ll certainly go scavenging for dead things in the spring, clean their bones and add them to the collection. We might try tanning a hide, but only if we can get one without having to kill an animal — the kid is a little too tender for that.

We’ve always gone to the national forest to play in creeks and look around at what’s there, but this year they’re big enough to go on longer hikes. We’ve had a lot of fun catching and handling frogs, crawdads, garter snakes and a wide range of insects. This year, we’ll go after small creatures that aren’t as easily accessible, and trek back some rivers I know where we’re likely to be able to harvest shelf mushrooms. I’m probably not going to take them anywhere unfamiliar to me, but to a lot of places where they’ve never been.

All of what I’m talking about is the fun parts of parenting — or some of them. My kid’s mom is not what you’d call outdoorsy or artsy — she has other skills — so I get to do all this stuff and I love every moment of it.

This is what I think God made people for. Well, I should say I think it’s possibly part of what God made people for. God is infinitely creative, but God can’t think of creating something that God wouldn’t think of, so God can’t be surprised or intrigued by another creative mind unless God makes one and sets it free. Human beings are the creatures who God gave creativity to. There are other creatures that make beautiful things — orb-weaver spiders and bowerbirds spring to mind — but they’re following patterns or responding to stimuli. Orb-weavers can’t do any other shapes and bowerbirds are competing for mates. Only people are capable of conceiving of totally original creative expressions that serve no other purpose. We can also make functional items that are beautiful.

God gave us our ability to create. I imagine He hoped to watch us explore this gift, to be delighted and intrigued by the things that we would make. Certainly, some of our works would have appeared clumsy to Him, but that wouldn’t have made them less charming — I have some wonderfully wonky pictures my kid made when they were little. Creativity and exploration are not dissimilar. I think He also hoped to tag along as we branched out and explored His world.

Homosapiens apparently originated in the Great Rift Valley in eastern Africa — that’s where the oldest fossils have been found. From there, we migrated out in all directions, with God watching. The earliest migrations were small bands of hunter-gathers, who were probably somewhat terrified and possibly amazed by every new thing they saw. That must have been fun for God, who knew what animals and topographical features they were going to encounter before they did. I’m sure He found their paintings on cave walls and sculptures of very plump women as delightful as we do today.

Those early hunter-gathers lived their lives before the fall, by the way. Religion, as we know it, didn’t happen until after the development of agriculture, permanent settlements and concentrations of people in what might be called cities. The period of time when all people lived in small bands, wandering around and eating what they found, the Stone Age, lasted around 190,000 years — about 90% of the time that there have been humans. The prevailing idea in anthropology is that early humans had some kind of spiritual beliefs. Almost all hunter-gather peoples who managed to survive into the modern area had beliefs that fall into the category of animism, with a wide range of regional variations, so the assumption is that early humans also were animists.

One should not, of course, assume that early humans never committed acts of violence. They very likely did, when they encountered other groups who appeared to be threatening, or when they had to compete for resources. However, there is no reason to think that they committed violence on any kind of large scale. Traditional peoples who have survived and been studied in the modern era have generally had checks on the scale of their battles with each other. Many native peoples of North America, for example, lived in a state of constant warfare with other tribes, but their conflicts were highly ceremonial and tended to have very low body-counts.

Given time, God might have mentored them into peaceful coexistence. We’ll never know.

There are a lot of theories about human development since the invention of agriculture, most of which fall into two categories: A) it’s all been getting worse; and B) it’s all been getting better. I tend toward a mixture — things have been changing, always getting better and worse simultaneously. We’re less likely to be killed by drinking water, but more likely to be killed by a random stranger than any hunter-gatherer of the distant or recent past. We have fancy phones, which don’t seem to make anyone happy. We have elaborate social structures which let many people suffer in squalor. We can light our homes and burn tens of thousands of people in an instant.

We are where and when we are. We can’t change the past, but we can do whatever we want with the future. Jesus stated that the kingdom of the Father had already come — He was it. His followers have been mostly standing around since then, waiting for Him to come back. At various points, some of them have had the bad idea that doing exactly the opposite of what He taught was okay. Some others have started communities, thinking that they could make a miniature version of the kingdom of the Father apart from what everyone else was doing. Those communities have generally been persecuted at first, then tolerated. Many have died out, but there are a few still around. Whether they are actually helping to bring about the Second Coming, God only knows.

I’m sure God is delighted by creativity, when it isn’t driven by motivations of greed or the desire to have power over others. I’m confident that He delights in playful artistic expression whether it’s done by a child or an adult who has honed their skills for decades. I’m equally sure that He is thrilled to see any and every child be intrigued by a cicada or crawdad. These are uniquely human experiences — crawdads aren’t that interested in children — and what else would He keep us around for?

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Middle-aged trans lesbian Christian opossum. Trying to work out a comprehensive theology and failing.

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Luther von Wolfen

Luther von Wolfen

Middle-aged trans lesbian Christian opossum. Trying to work out a comprehensive theology and failing.

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