Image via WikipediaI am so thankful for you folks who have found me and this blog through looking for my grandmother, Madeleine L'Engle, and for sticking with me, for giving me the chance to both be my own person and yet not deny the profound influence she has had on my view of creativity and the world of the spirit.
One of you is a young college student from Iowa, a devout Mormon who wrote me the other day asking for my views on "service". She will be teaching a class in her LDS church next month and wants to get different perspectives.
I have a multitude of perspectives on service, from my Christian background, my years as as therapist, my profound appreciation and respect for the twelve steps. But for this morning I will try to focus on what Gran has taught me about service.
What does the word "service" mean to you? In your opinion, what comes first-- Love or service ?
Madeleine's writings and her personhood were/are quenchers for my thirsty soul, as I'm sure they were/are for you. She both embodied and wrote about Art as Service in many of her books, especially Walking on Water.
If the work comes to the artist and says, "Here I am, serve me," then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist's talent is not what it's about. Jean Rhys said to an interviewer in the PARIS REVIEW, "Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake." p.16
How I cling to the line: the amount of artist's talent is not what it's about. !!!!
So being of service is an act of listening, whether it's to your Higher Power or another person. One of the greatest examples is in the words of St. Francis of Assisi:
- Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
- Where there is injury, pardon.
- Where there is doubt, faith.
- Where there is despair, hope.
- Where there is darkness, light.
- Where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master,
- grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
- to be understood, as to understand;
- to be loved, as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive.
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
- and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Being "of service" means that I am able to get out of my own way and serve a higher purpose by reaching out to and ultimately helping others. It enlarges my world view, and gets me out of my egocentric self. It is the path to being happy, joyous and free.
Both words, love and service, are often a mantra for me whenever I am dealing with a difficult situation. Service is love in action. It takes love from an amorphous feeling into a meaningful shape.
What rewards or blessings have you received as a result of service you have done or that has been done for you?
Where do I start? I have always wanted to help heal the world, however hubristic (not a word, should be) that may seem. My father is a priest, my mother a therapist, my grandmother - well, she has helped millions. I still flounder my way through being of service and through accepting help when I need it myself. I became a therapist in order to find meaning in my life. I had children and devoted myself in service to them, I took care of my grandmother. I started taking writing seriously again because of my Gran's philosophy of art as service.
Whenever I am locked into a narrow view of myself and my life, I know that being of service is the way out - it is the path to joining the human race again. So whenever I am of service, it is healing me. I go back to the prayer of St. Francis and the vocation of listening, to my "work" and the people around me. To really listen, see and understand another person? Those are priceless gifts!
I've gone on long enough and I'd love to hear from you all!