It has long seemed to me that what we need to make is a difference. If we are making ephemeral things, I’d always thought, we aren’t really making much, or doing justice to the world, because what it needs is change, contribution, brilliance, systems, products that last, that improve our lives in concrete ways. Like health care reform. Like voter registration systems. Like healthy local food production.
And here I am, listening to my thirteen-year-old niece draw the most extraordinary sounds from her cello, basking in the resonance, this sound that wraps around me like a hug and reaches into my knees like a kiss. This, I can tell, is sacred; this is true. This is worth any amount of practice, money, and inconvenience. This is important in the world.
I remember my own youthful engagement with music, which always filled me up but which was, I felt, not important enough in the world. Which is to say: it did not stop fights or help my parents like each other. It did not contribute to household income, at least not for a while. But I can see, now, that it helped hold things together for me and perhaps for us…maybe even when we should have fallen apart.
I now see that that’s the point: to help us hold it together; to help us fall apart. It’s the point of music, of painting, of poetry, of knitting and spinning and dying yarn. It’s the point of collage, of letterpress, of papier-mâché. It’s the point of song, of singing, of dance. It’s the point of anything that we make ourselves, with our tiny hearts and striving souls. It’s the point of all these many ways we hold up the specificity of our lives, ourselves, against the incoherence and fray of the universe. Making is what we have, the action that demonstrates choice and will and art and resourcefulness. It makes us human, of course, and no art or craft more than any other.
My niece’s playing reminds me that what is sacred is the yearning, the creativity, the hope embedded in the action. It’s what we are.