“Nobody is born ahead of their time!”—Hannah Gadsby, from the one-person show Nanette
Gadsby exclaims this at the crux of her thorough discussion of Vincent Van Gogh’s stylistic and thematic choices. She’s reacting to a commonly-repeated thought: that, during his life, Van Gogh’s work wasn’t collected widely or financially rewarded because his ideas (as expressed on canvas) were Too Much for the benighted folk around him. Gadsby’s BA in Art History gets thorough exercise as she demonstrates how, instead, Van Gogh partook — beautifully — of the approaches, ideas, and trends bubbling up at the time. Very much of his moment, our Vincent, and kudos to him for it. That his work didn’t sell at the time? A different problem.
It’s sunny today. I’m taking care of bits and bobs, as I did yesterday: make the hotel reservation, ask about health insurance coverage, order the present. I’m grumbling about not-doing focused work, which I also did yesterday but from a much more turtle-d position. Today, at least, I can write something.
Last night, someone in my spiritual direction group (different than my solo practice; anyway) spoke about embodied practice: about participating in a service that offered movement, about her feeling increasingly drawn toward Christian activities where bodily action is essential — about being drawn to be a person causing those things to happen. Being a minister of embodied Christian practice, in fact, seeing it as central in aligning folk to God, to themselves with/in God, to each other alongside God.
What she spoke of lives inside theopoetics, the label I also use… to bundle my work with poems and provisionality and wordless things of God.
When I describe theopoetics to others, I generally get head-nods, or wistful looks, and affirmation: “Sounds like something we need a lot more of!” I say that I want to do scholarly work in theopoetics, and besides an incredulous look (who would want to do more school?!?) I gather even more encouragement — the gap in the world that only I seemed to notice back in 2014 is apparently now far more easy to see.
These past few months, however, as I wait to hear from Ph.D. programs, I slide between torpor and fret.
Torpor, because in this space of waiting my longer-range ideas feel like: Why bother? Who will notice if I work or don’t work? Back in 2015, when I first tried out my baby idea, three people (ok four including My Sweetie) knew about it as it happened… noticing didn’t really occur. And hasn’t since.
Fret, well, fret says: What if I’m too late? What if I miss the tipping point because I moved too slowly? (I don’t know how I would move faster, but emotion is not reason.) Important things like this will happen with or without me… and I’m so invested in it being with me, how can I stand it?
There’s a sentiment I’ve heard more from the Black church than other places — God’s time is always the right time, no matter what our human opinion is.
My opinion is pretty low these days.
Still, I know God is with me, even in my fret and torpor.
I cannot be ahead of my time, even if I wanted to be,
and now that I’m looking at my time-spans, I’m not sure I could be too late, either.
“Between can feel like a narrow bridge, or a tightrope. May your between feel like a hammock, cushioning you,” she told me. A good blessing!