For the past day and a half I had the honor and pleasure of participating in a collaborative meeting that included a group of artists who are working with or who want to work with our Military members and their families in helping them to express themselves and to create for their overall well-being. And these artists, whether they dance, sing, write music or prose/poetry, act, sculpt, paint, and a lot of other things, are generous, kind people. They want to share their talents and help others learn to do some of these creative arts, to discover their talents or hone their skills.
While the foundation of this initiative came out of art and music therapists working with combat Veterans in a clinical setting, they have found a great amount of anecdotal evidence that much of their work with these Vets and their families has had extremely positive and productive effects upon that group.
After their time with arts therapists, many Veterans yearned for continued artistic experiences as they found it so fundamentally, even crucially, necessary for their continued forward movement psychologically and physically. There were several Veterans present who gave their personal testimonies on how the arts had improved their quality of life. They were moving and inspiring. Phrases like, (art therapy) “saved my life,” or “saved me” were heard over and over again.
Not only was there this anecdotal evidence, but it was also mentioned, by some of the researchers and clinicians in attendance, that there are studies proving that arts therapy can change the way an injured brain works. It can repair or re-route neural pathways to help a traumatic brain injury (TBI) patient improve. It is a definite game changer in the recovery of many TBI patients. Exciting stuff is going on out there! What a privilege to be part of it.
And it was a great feeling to witness the artists, scientists, researchers, and educators all working together to help their fellow human beings. But one of the things that came into focus for me is that, while I firmly believe in the ability of the arts to help heal, I also believe in the need for artistic experiences in all our lives. Music, visual arts, theater, dance, plays or poems, can all benefit us as human beings. We all want to be and can be creative. We all need to express ourselves at some point. Self expression, seeing beauty, experiencing the truth, the peace, the sheer enjoyment of either creating ourselves or viewing something that someone else has created is important to the human mind, the psyche; it benefits the well being of all.
I hope that what the arts community is doing will continue to blossom and will overflow from arts therapy, and the benefits of that for healing wounded people, to art for art’s sake. The arts matter to the Military.
The arts matter to human beings! I believe it touches a part of our mind, hearts, and souls that nothing else can touch. And that, I believe, is because the arts are more directly connected to beauty which is connected to God. I heard a young musician, who happens to be a seminarian on his way to priesthood, say the other day that “Music can break open a heart.” And I believe that is true of other art forms, as well. Don’t think of that in terms of ‘being broken hearted,’ which has a sad connotation, but more of breaking down the wall one can build around a heart; the hard shell that surrounds a heart can be shattered to release, set free the heart that longs for love, to love, to appreciate beauty and truth and goodness.
I don’t know how many of the artists as therapists or just as teachers or in collaboration with other artists, are people of faith. But that is not the point right now. That is not the concern right now. The concern for me is helping people find peace, to find joy, to find gratitude. Those things can lead us to God. And that is the foundational reason that I try to help get more people to experience the arts. I want to help them move a little closer to God through beauty. My earlier post, Consider Beauty, posted on 1 December, explains more my thoughts on what beauty is and why it’s important.
Lord, let us see your beauty in the world around us, both the world You created, and the works of art Your children make. And let that draw us closer to You. Help the arts reveal more of You and Your mercy and love to us. Amen!