IntroductionThose "Artsy Types"
But then, no artist is normal; if he were, he
wouldn't be an artist. Normal men don't
create works of art. They eat, sleep, hold
down routine jobs, and die. You are hypersensitive
to life and nature; that's why you
are able to interpret for the rest of us. But
if you are not careful, that very hypersensitiveness
will lead you to your destruction.
The strain of it breaks every artist in time.
Irving Stone, Lust for Life
Some time ago I spoke at a church conference in Ft. Lauderdale that
was attended mostly by pastors and church leaders. I talked about the
current state of church music and the future of the arts in the church.
However, my deeper passion is for Christian artists to be living lives of
integrity and godly character, so I sneaked in a few words about character
and integrity. I hardly mentioned it, yet there was a flurry of questions
afterward, all dealing with the issue of character and integrity in
the lives of artists in the church. Character is fast becoming the hottest
issue facing artists in the church today. In fact, the majority of the questions
I get about church music ministry never have much to do with
music. They revolve around character issues: How can I get my people
to serve with a servant's heart? How can I cultivate unity on the team?
How can I get my vocalists or my drama people to get along with each
other? What should I do about the attitude problems of a few of my
musicians? The music department and other arts-related ministries
have become a hotbed for major character problems in the church. I've
even seen more than a few music ministries blown apart because their
leaders failed to address such character issues.
I've had pastors call me, frustrated over character issues they see in
their music staff. "Our music director doesn't listen to suggestions," they'll
say, or "He doesn't take criticism well. He's not a team player-he's more
interested in doing his own thing."
I've also heard music directors express similar frustrations about their
volunteers. "So-and-so is a great keyboard player, but they're just so difficult
to work with," or "Our key vocalist throws a temper tantrum and
threatens to quit once a month. We're scared because we can't afford to
lose any of our best vocalists right now. What should we do?"
For too long churches have ignored the problem, letting character
issues in the lives of artists slide. We've turned our heads, hoping the problem
would go away by itself, but it never does. A pastor sat with me on the
bus back to the hotel at this conference in Ft. Lauderdale, and he said
something very revealing: "I just leave those artsy types alone. They're
kinda off in their own little world anyway."
What did he mean by "those artsy types"? How do you know if you're
one of those artsy types? If you love music, drama, art, film, photography,
dance, sound, or lighting, if you love doing artistic things-singing,
playing, performing, writing, creating, or expressing-chances are you
have some kind of artistic streak, large or small or somewhere in between.
You might be someone trying to pursue a career in the arts or someone
who dabbles in the arts as a hobby. Maybe the extent of your artistic
involvement is that you sing in the back row of the church choir. You
might be an "amateur" or you might be a "professional." You might be a
performer, a creative person, or both. Perhaps you work with artists or
live with an artist, and want to understand us artsy types a little better.
Unfortunately there are certain negative stereotypes that are attached
to people with artistic temperaments. Some people say that we are temperamental
and eccentric. Some people think we're difficult and strange.
Some might say we are moody and emotionally unstable. Others see us as
free-spirited, quirky, and undisciplined. Excuses are often made for the
shortcomings of the artistic temperament, more so than with any other
temperament. The problem occurs when we artists buy into those excuses
and use them to justify unacceptable behavior.
The negative stereotypes are unfair because not all people with artistic
gifts fit the mold. My son informed me the other day that in school he
was learning about how weird musicians are. He had been taking a music
appreciation class, and what impressed him the most was that Beethoven
had such a bad temper that he would cause a scene in a restaurant if his
food wasn't right, that women would throw their room keys onstage at
Franz Liszt, and that Wagner was a quirky man with strong anti-Semitic
views. Since so many of the musicians he was learning about were very
strange, it made me wonder what he thinks about me!
THE MELANCHOLY TEMPERAMENT
For centuries now scholars have been fascinated with the artistic temperament.
It started with the ancient Greeks, who divided human personality
into four main categories: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and
melancholy. Aristotle said that "all extraordinary men distinguished in philosophy,
politics, poetry, and the arts are evidently melancholic." As a
result, people with an artistic bent were labeled as melancholy, which is
somewhat misleading because not all artists are predominantly melancholy.
I know quite a few who have only a few melancholy tendencies, and others
who aren't melancholy at all.
During the Middle Ages melancholy was considered a physical disorder,
and the church regarded it as a sin similar to slothfulness. However,
during the Renaissance melancholy made a comeback and was seen as a
divine gift. Astrology played a large role in Renaissance thinking. A person's
behavior was determined at birth by his or her planet's conjunction
with other celestial bodies. Saturn was the planet for the melancholic.
Someone born under Saturn would "be either sane and capable of rare
accomplishment or sick and condemned to inertia and stupidity." The
capability for "rare accomplishment" obviously made the melancholy temperament
quite fashionable during the Renaissance. In fact, it was written
that "a veritable wave of 'melancholic behavior' swept across Europe" during
the sixteenth century. The more eccentric an artist was, the more he
or she was considered a "genius."
In spite of this rather exalted view, which continued well into the
Romantic period, the melancholy temperament has always had its share
of negative press. Even at a time when the melancholy temperament was
in vogue, there were those who were expressing concern. Writing in the
year 1586, Timothy Bright described the melancholy person as
cold and dry; of colour black and swart; of substance inclining to hardness; lean and sparse of flesh . of memory reasonably good if fancies
deface it not; firm in opinion, and hardly removed where it is resolved; doubtful before, and long in deliberation; suspicious, painful in studies, and circumspect; given to fearful and terrible dreams; in affection sad and
full of fear, hardly moved to anger but keeping it long, and not easy to be
reconciled; envious and jealous, apt to take occasions in the worst part, and out of measure passionate. From these two dispositions of brain and
heart arise solitariness, mourning, weeping . sighing, sobbing, lamentation, countenance demisse and hanging down, blushing and bashful; of pace slow, silent, negligent, refusing the light and frequency of men, delighted more in solitariness and obscurity.