Discipline and wonder, though sometimes perceived quite distant from each other, pair up so well. To obtain the steady hand of making something routine it takes pushing through many small, annoyed exercises and dancing into and past frustration. Wonder automatically induces daydreaming and time to let creation soak in. It’s been fun to always prefer the latter to the former. It’s been necessary to demand the former over the latter. But to have these two concepts work together? After nearly two-and-a-half years I’ve finally finished the unabridged English version of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, and it came on the cusp of watching Greensboro Ballet’s 2016 production of “The Nutcracker.” Sweat-drenched words and pain-prepped muscles unleashed the practice of close reading, close listening, and close comprehension. The season of Christmas and winter’s solstice seemed to allow this work to whisper instead of shout. As a lovely, brief interlude I’ve appreciated “The Magnolia Story” painting the hard work and fascinating dreams of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Tension and freedom melt into artistry. (Have you seen her Instagram? Tchaikovsky and Hugo are gems, but female entrepreneurs who love Jesus can be the tools that craft the gems.) Some favorite lessons of these three pieces include: it’s okay to follow your own schedule in pursuing art, fighting for habits (creative and in general) is worth it, and being truthful showcases your specific design in beautiful and lively ways.
Though I can’t possibly craft a comprehensive review of Hugo’s Les Mis until later this year or maybe even next, I know it’s the finest and most core-shaking book I’ve ever read aside from The Holy Bible. Part of its charm is the intimacy you encounter in a little over twelve hundred pages. I miss Jean Valjean and Marius as friends I haven’t seen in awhile. I ache to know more about Cosette and Marius, their lives together and their inner demons and triumphs. As an English major steeped in the need to impress, I would lie about books read or agree with concepts of novels that remained half-consumed. I was hungrier for forced camaraderie than the experience of the book. This book is special because I read it for God and myself. Though sometimes desperate to make sure people knew I actually saw a task to fruition, which had more to do with past mistakes and less to do with celebrating this amazing accomplishment, I reveled in the completion. What a gift! The Nutcracker brought childhood memories of ballet class to the surface, and suddenly taking in a good dance show every now and then felt better than forcing myself to return to that lean dancer’s body. Watching ankles turn out and arms float majestically under stage lighting was a delight that didn’t require comparison. I’m still listening to the Gaines family in their book, and all of the social media posts about its contents won’t make me shout “I loved that, too!” I’m not sure I do yet, because it’s unfinished. And that’s perfectly fine. The joy in following your own trajectory in your given timing is radiant.
Discussing writing, reading or watching ballet comes with stipulations. There is a bubbling up that requires imitation. Those sentences were elegant and evoked powerful emotion, so I must do that. The energy she put forth in moving her hips that way helps with cardio later. Their joint enterprises motivate Travis and I to find our own special contributions to society. This mimicking involves repeated work. If I’m going to write that well, I have to push through distractions. Appreciating dance and design means practice. Thickened attention takes millions of hard, little steps. Repeating this over and over will help the habits to stick.
Had Hugo chosen some type of non-letter career, would we have this masterpiece? I think so. But because he was the one to write it, Hugo’s story involved the authentic creativity of his brain and heart that honored Les Mis. He had a stamp on it. The many talented adolescent, teenage and adult dancers in GB’s 2016 “The Nutcracker” donated their particular bodies to the overall story. Because of each journey, a certain quality of art was born. To draw out more of these “what-if’s” I couldn’t see Chip Gaines as an investment banker or Joanna Gaines continuing to manage her father’s tire shop. They had loving craftsmanship to share with their world. So in hearing these tales of settled personhood, it becomes momentum. “Love it. Do it. Share it.” Maybe it’s motivational poster, but those are the mandates that shape my thinking after such lovely artwork. (And those posters can be encouraging.) In addition to the gospel, hugs, and conversations, our world can really benefit from open-fisted, freedom-backed, generous words, motions and stories.