The breath of God is only one of the divine gifts that makes us living souls; the other is the dust…Forgetting that the dust, too, is a creature of the Creator, made by the sending forth of His spirit, we have presumed to decide that dust is ‘low’. We have presumed to say that we are made of two parts: a body and a soul, the body being “low” because made of dust, and the soul” high”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace
Those words by Mr Berry have been making me think this morning on a bright and sunny morning here in Belfast.
Its such a battle to reprogram my way of seeing the world (especially as a Christian) into one in which the things outside my brain, the stuff I can see, touch and smell matters. Matter matters as NT Wright and others have said.
The thinking that on one side we have an earthly bleuuuugggghhhhhhh side that is dying and decaying and on the other a holy beautiful soul side that we must nurture and is going to float up into heaven when the earthly bit of us dies is so deeply ingrained in me that its hard to shake off.
Habits like always closing our eyes during prayer maybe doesn’t help. Its like saying the things we see or experience, our neighbours and people in church are only distractions from what really matters, namely getting in touch with God by using our thought and mind.
Yet God made the dust.
And as Wendell Berry points out later on in the essay, Christians have a responsibility to use the physical world that God gave us as a gift. Wood, stones, oil, ink, soil, everything. We are all artists as we’re reworking God’s great creation artistry.
As I type this I am watching workmen walking on scaffolding at the Central Lending library. One man is drilling a hole with a hammer drill into the wall, the noise annoying 3 men using the computers in front of me.
Another one is hammering and chipping away at brick
Some people would call them builders, which they are.
Yet they are also artists, reworking the raw materials that God made with tools made from the raw materials that God also made.
Which means that we are all artists.
That means we have a responsibility to use all raw materials well, in a way that honours God and loves our neighbours. Which I think is exciting, but also demanding.