June 26, 2017

Artists work harder than others, and a lot more artists exist than are recognized as such. This opening statement may require a story further exploring an artist and their work, because it pushes against a well-accepted cliché about artists “not really working”. 

An interviewer approached three stonemasons on a building site. She went to the first one and asked the simple question, “What are you doing?” The mason said, “Cutting stones and placing one stone upon the other to build a wall.” She recognized that mason as a laborer—one who uses their hands to get by or survive.

She then went to the second mason and asked the same question. This mason said, “Following a plan, cutting and stacking stone for a wall of a great building.” She had spoken to a craftsman—one who brings their hands and head to a project for the purpose of doing what is expected, getting by, or surviving.

The interviewer then went to the last mason. She asked the same question. The mason answered, “I am cutting stones and placing them expertly to build one of the walls for a great cathedral. I will not see its finish; yet I will have participated in a dream that will come true some day. Some day, people in the cathedral will look about them and wonder about the ones who dared to care so much and give so much for the sake of the thing itself, and the people who can see it. Even more, doing it matters to us. It matters to me.”

In the answer, she knew that an artist spoke to her—one who works with hands, head, and, most importantly, with heart. The interviewer had asked the question of one who, firstly, brings the heart to what they do, and secondly, does what matters to the heart.

Artists love work because work itself means movement that requires one’s heart, head, and hands. For the other two masons, this was labor, laborious, even dreadful eventually, because neither had brought heart to the endeavor.

Anyone who gives heart, head, and hands to that which is good, true, lovely, right, just, noble, praiseworthy, or admirable is an artist. These people work in all walks of life, everywhere, everyday — thank God. The heart matters much to artists because they have to face multiple vicissitudes all the time. They push against the status quo of getting by, surviving, or doing what is expected. They are after that which sustains faith, hope, and love—all matters of the heart. Opposition to faith, hope, and love is as prevalent as the artists who fight for the heart of living. Artists keep the faith; they cannot stop “believing”.

In doing so, they excite faith, hope, and love in others. They arouse our hearts. They inspire us to believe. They tell us to keep at it. They teach us faith, a real probability, that God has shaped us for more than just getting the job done, and for much more than labor. Where one is “with heart” has everything to do with whether one is working or laboring. Do I give my heart to life? Does it pulse through my actions? Does it affect my thinking? Do I dare step into my own hopes and pursue with my heart whatever I am doing?

The work of artists is everywhere—in the mail being delivered, in the garbage being picked up, in the flowers being planted, in the actions of the hospital room, in the arms of the parent who holds the child. Artists work harder than others because they continue to bring heart to life in what can be the listless or lifeless without them.

If the heart is in it, it matters. It is art and it is work. And their work sustains us all.