Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to
experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow” —Kurt Vonnegut
The first time I visited a spiritual director, I was thrown by her question to me, “How are you tending to your soul?” Because of the quizzical look I gave her, it was evident that I was not tending to my soul, but I was also unfamiliar with what she was asking me. She then asked the question differently, “are you in touch with what’s going on inside of you?” It was clear to her that I was not taking heed to, listening to, or being attentive to the promptings of inner or spiritual wisdom. A few days ago, considering consistently bad political, economic, and international news, a seemingly endless winter and lack of sunlight, and recent findings chronicling some of the negative impacts of social media, I heard myself asking how I tend to my soul. Perhaps, in this season of resurrection, when life, newness, and possibilities are freshly manifesting in the dawn of spring, we can intentionally listen to or heed the call of things and people that feed our souls.
I recently remembered the story about a letter the author Kurt Vonnegut wrote years ago to students at a high school who wrote to him asking his advice. It was not hard to find. There is even a video clip of the actor, Ian McKellen, reading it aloud for an audience. In the letter, Vonnegut invited the students to use the practice of art “to find out what’s inside you.” The phrase from the letter that stuck with me was in Vonnegut’s advice to practice any art whatsoever “to make your soul grow.” To make your soul grow. Repeat that phrase. Make it your prayer.
For those of us who do not have a practice of art, there are other ways of making our souls grow, especially through love, laughter, and connection with others. How often do we underestimate the gift to the soul that connection with others can bring? The scholar Renita Weems laments our tendency to close ourselves off from engaging with others, especially in the confined spaces of airplanes or waiting rooms, where our nonencounters with a fellow human being foreclose on the possibility of witnessing a resurrection of something new and life-giving. I have come up with a million reasons in the past for not engaging others, and it breaks my heart to think how often we miss that “the grace of God was lurking in the shadows in those moments” when we could have experienced it by drawing closer to another. I pray we do not miss those opportunities anymore. May we do more of what may make our souls grow. May it be so.