It’s been a while since I enjoyed reading a book as much as I did Matt Appling’s Life After Art.
Now, granted I’ve been in school for a while and have been forced to read many things that are less than pleasurable, but that has little to do with why I enjoyed Matt’s book so much.
In Life After Art Matt touches on a subject that I am very passionate about – creativity and imagination. In his book, he challenges us to rediscover the fearless love for creativity we all had when we were children, but lost as we grew up, learned our limitations, and began worrying about what our peers thought of our creations.
Matt’s passion for art and all things creative saturates every page of Life After Art and he’s such a great writer that from the opening pages I felt like I was sitting in his classroom watching him teach. The only thing missing was my own canvas and paint to work on while I listened to him describe the importance of beauty and creativity in life.
As someone who great up in a multi-generataional family of teachers I am pretty opinionated about our country’s educational system. One of the things that frustrates me the most is the disproportionate emphasis placed on math and science to the degradation of everything else. Without going on a rant about standardized testing, this overemphasis leaves us with a glut of profoundly unimaginative and uncreative (not to mention historically ignorant and borderline illiterate) children. This is where I think Matt really hits the nail on the head.
As he says in his book, life is not like math class. It’s like art class. That’s not to say math isn’t profoundly important in “the real world.” It is. But life is about facing new challenges, failing, and imagining new ways of looking at and engaging the world, all of which we learn in art class. In other words, if we force feed our children nothing but mathematical equations and scientific facts, yet totally deprive them of the ability to develop their creativity and imagination they will never be able to reach their full potential by taking the things the learned in math and science class and imagining how they can be used to transform the world.
I think the same is true of the church, which is also why I think Matt’s book is so important.
For too long, just like the classroom, the church has put the bulk of its discipleship weight into teaching facts about the faith (i.e. doctrine), memorizing Bible verses, and waiting for her people to simple regurgiate what they have learned. Just like with math and science, there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with teaching facts about the faith and memorizing Bible verses. But if we don’t spur our people on towards creativity and challenge them to imagine how their faith can and should be lived out in the 21st century, then we will ultimately find ourselves failing to live up to our identity as the people of a God who at His core exudes beauty and creativity.
Life After Art faces this challenge head one with a wonderful array of stories, insights, and ideas that invite the church to abandon her stagnant approach to simply doing things the way they’ve always been done because that’s the way they’ve always been done, and instead rediscover our childhood wonder, or as Jesus said “become like little children,” so that we can use our once fearless creativity to change the world.
I can’t encourage you enough to pick up a copy of Life After Art. It won’t take you that long to get through, you’ll love every minute of it, and by the end I think you’ll find you’ve rediscovered that creative spark you thought you lost the day you left art class.
Grace and peace,