Why do we make things? What have we lost with our increasing isolation from the physical world and the skills that have allowed us to flourish within that world? How do we reconnect with our bodies, the earth, and one another? How does the act of making things change us, help us grow, heal us? These are all spiritual questions, and their answer is also spiritual. Making things is an inherently spiritual activity. It immerses us, whether we are conscious of it or not, in the deepest questions of human life. Like any contemplative practice, craft encourages us to slow down, to connect with our bodies, and to enter a state of timelessness or eternity in which we cease to strive, even as we work for an end. The process of making something, beginning with raw materials, engaging our senses and abilities—and our limitations—and following through until we have a finished piece is itself a spiritual inquiry into the nature of reality and the nature of the self. Put more straightforwardly, when I make something, I discover more about who I am, which includes a deeper understanding of the world in which I live. That this knowledge is usually intuitive and implicit rather than explicit makes it no less transformative.
Craft is also an inherently religious activity. The word “religion” derives from the Latin “religare,” which means “to bind together.” In the same way a physician binds a wound, craft, when engaged in as a contemplative practice, binds the fragments of our many selves into one unified Self. Vigen Guroian, an Orthodox theologian and gardener, puts it this way: “When I garden, earth and earthworm pass between my fingers, and I realize that I am made of the same stuff. […] Man is a microcosm in whose flesh resonates and reverberates the pulse of the whole creation, in whose mind creation comes to consciousness, and through whose imagination and will God wants to heal and reconcile everything that sin has wounded and put in disharmony.” (Inheriting Paradise, p. 7)
When I knit (or sew, or garden, or pray) I am remade and renewed. I am religioned—bound back together again—and made more whole in the process. Through contemplative crafting, I learn that identity is not something I create. It is something I allow to emerge, seemingly all of a sudden, until a beautiful pattern makes me laugh out loud with joy. Lent needn’t be a dreary time. Joy is perfectly wonderful way to pray and prepare!
Br. Aidan Owen, OHC Guestmaster & GroundskeeperHoly Cross Monastery
www.holycrossmonastery.com writing at alittlefire.org
Project update: 4 rows seed stitch and 4 rows of stockinette stitch.
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