Megan Lebo

"Just be. Its what the world denies you" – Brandon Heath

Month: February, 2012

Surrealism and the human condition…

Over the past couple of years I have become increasing intrigued by surrealist art.  I say intrigued because I cannot honestly say that I like it.  Still there has always been a part of me that desired to understand it.

The dictionary defines surrealism as dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

While researching the philosophy behind the movement I was introduced to the idea of accessing the unconscious portions of your mind.  The surrealist artist, whether painter, writer or filmmaker, seeks to tap into or access the portions of the brain that contain the thoughts, images, and visions that our conscious mind is unaware of.  Surrealism, in its purist form, is an unfiltered, unbridled, continuous stream of thinking.

As an artist and a songwriter (with a seemingly perpetual case of writer’s block) I will admit that the idea of somehow tearing down the wall that obstructs the doorway to my creativity sounds exciting and liberating.  So I began researching surrealism and the access of the unconscious mind.

If all of this sounds a bit cult-like and strange, that’s because it is.

Surrealism and surrealist art stemmed from a cultural movement known as Dadaism that originated in Zurich, Switzerland during WWI.  Those who were drawn in Dadaism were taking a stand against the war, considered the modern world meaningless, and were, in nature, anarchists.  This movement is what laid the foundation for surrealism.

Anyone familiar with the works of artists such as Salvador Dali know that surrealist art is bizarre and often borders on or even crosses the line of disturbing.  This is especially evident in some of the “avant garde” filmmakers such as David Lynch. (See The Alphabet.  Or don’t.  I actually recommend the latter.)  The question that comes to mind when experiencing these strange works is “Where in the world do these ideas come from?”  Their bizarre nature tends to leave me feeling as though I just walked into the dark and secret corners of somebody’s life.

This led me to the question “What is the real nature of this art form?”.  Is this really something we should be tapping into?

If the philosophy behind this kind of work is unfiltered thought and ideas what does this say about the person creating it?

To be honest the desire to “free” myself and give reign to what is unconscious seemed strangely appealing.  I have in my life put up so many walls to guard myself against…well…I don’t know really, that even accessing the creative pools in my brain have become increasingly difficult.  The question I began to ask myself though was, as a woman of faith, should I be entertaining such Freudian ideas when the man himself viewed religion as an affliction and a form of neurosis.  Is this merely philosophy as opposed to faith?

I found an interesting answer when I stumbled upon a paper written by a Dr. Daniel C. Aikens titled “The Unconscious: A Christian Appraisal.  The paper itself is written in respect to psychology and Christian counseling versus the arts but he makes some very interesting points that can certainly be applicable.  He validates the existence of the unconscious by equating it with the heart.  He quotes Paul’s discourse in Romans 7 of the Scriptures on not doing what he wants to do and doing that which he does not want to do.  Dr. Aikens then poses the question “Where does this evil force called sin reside?  Could it not be that which makes up part of the unconscious within the human psyche?”  He then states, “The unconscious very well may be one element of the bastard of sin that infests the whole human race.”

I was suddenly very excited to hear that last statement, for that very idea had already occurred to me!  It was already my theory that the reason surrealist artwork causes such anxiety within me was because I was witnessing the core of the artist’s depravity.  Is tapping into the unconscious really just the exposure of everything that is wretched and evil within man?  Do I really want to know the deep contents of my heart?  I am already aware of my conscious tendency to lust, and to be angry, and to act with deceit.  Do I really want to know the things that are hiding in the deep recesses of my heart?

Mark 7:21-23 says:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

I do want to state, though, that I am not throwing out the access of the unconscious completely.

The unconscious, to the artist, can be a great pool to draw from.  I believe there to be great riches wading in the waters of the unconscious mind.  But releasing its contents without filters can be dangerous and boundaries need to be set.  If one is not cautious, evil, when given a foothold, will prevail.  Shedding light on our sin, confessing and coping with it through artistic expression, I believe is healthy and can be highly therapeutic.  But the sin nature that is at the root of every individual can also destroy the levees that are designed to protect us.

So to my fellow artists, whether you be musicians, painters, or writers, I encourage you to find your artistic freedom not in the depths of your unconscious mind (which is, in truth, the depths of our depravity) but in the first and greatest Artist that ever existed.

For in Him is true beauty, truth itself, and true love.

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“I write it ’cause its in me not because its fun…”

1 AM.

Its 1 AM and I cannot sleep.  As a matter of fact I am wide awake.  My body is having difficulties adjusting to its native time zone.  I tried immediately to restart my internal clock by staying up after I arrived home from New Zealand and I went to bed at the normal time here but three days later and I am still exhausted during the day and wide awake at night.

When your wide awake with nothing to do your mind begins to churn incessantly.  Everything is exaggerated at night when your alone.  There are so many things I want to write about.

Do you ever feel dysfunctional?

I do.  I feel broken in so many ways.  A wind up toy that no longer whizzes across the floor in excitement but spins in circles.  Does anyone else fake normalcy like I do?  Does anyone else smile big and make sure people think you’ve got things under control in your life?

I have discovered that my only sanity is my faith in God, music, and writing.

I attempt to comfort myself by bringing to mind the great artists throughout history.  Musicians, painters, etc.  So many of them led unorthodox lives.  Van Gogh cut his own ear off and spent a portion of his life in a mental facility.  Handel composed the entire Messiah in a state of mania.  Mozart was…well…eccentric.  Is this the price of brilliance?  Maybe the gift of artistic expression requires somewhat of a sacrifice.

But I don’t consider myself one who was gifted with brilliance necessarily.  I tend more often to feel like Antonio Salieri, shadowed by the brilliance and flamboyance of the Mozarts around me.  Gifted only with the ability to recognize and appreciate such lavish talent, whose personal creations pale in comparison to the great symphonies around me.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself.

But to be noticed is a great and difficult feat.  Is it even a feat I should be attempting to conquer?  The spiritual battle within me rages on as my flesh wants to be heard, to be seen, by anyone.  Should I really be seeking validation in such a way?

I don’t know.

I hate being this insecure.  I think I’m beginning to learn, though, how to let go.  I’m beginning to see how important it is to do what I do not for acceptance but because its who I am.  One of my favorite songwriters wrote “I write it ’cause its in me not because its fun.”

So I’m writing even now not because I think all these people will read what I have to say or even care. No.  I write for pleasure.  I write for therapy.

I write it ’cause its in me.

New Zealand…

As many of you know, I just got back from a three week backpacking trip throughout New Zealand.  I had mentioned before I left that I would be writing while I was over there, and I did.  I did not however have internet access.  So in this post I will include all of my writings and updates while I was over there to give you an idea what my trip was like.

There were many aspects of my trip that I probably will not touch on in this blog so if anyone wants more detail or more stories I would love to hear from you and would love to share with you personally so feel free to contact me.

Enjoy!

Small town meets real world.

I love flying.  There is a child-like fascination that overcomes me as I look out the airplane window and see the green and brown patchwork of landscape.  Its another world up here.  There is a surreal feeling that comes with being suspended between heaven and earth.  the colors seem to take on a new life.  The rivers wind on forever as the sun shimmers like jewels upon the water.  In short, its peaceful.

The L.A. airport on the other hand, is not.

As I navigate the labyrinth that is LAX I become acutely aware of just how small town I really am.  I board the bus that will take me from my arriving terminal to my departing terminal.  We weave in and out of traffic.  Cars and busses alike are honking in frustration, people everywhere.  I do believe there are as many people at one baggage claim here at LAX as there are in the entire Nashville airport.

Ok, maybe thats an exaggeration.

I experience the stress and fast pace of the big city.  And I haven’t even left the airport!  Oh, and I now speak spanish fluently.

Es la verdad!

And so begins this great adventure.  New people, new cultures, new places, and a new experience.  This small town girl has just been introduced to the vastness of God’s creation.  People, landscapes, languages and life.

So much life!

And as I take it all in I remember my small place and purpose in this great portrait.  To share the life that was given to me by the One who breathed life not only into my lungs but also into my heart.  To share not only abundant life, but ultimately eternal life.

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I love people!  Thats why I’m on this trip.  On board my last flight I have an entire rowing team to accompany me.  Might I add, an energetic one at that!  I’ve been hanging out with them at the terminal here in Brisbane for the last couple of hours.  At one point they were on the floor doing various exercises.  This included a 70ish year old woman who is in better shape than most 20 somethings I know!  They were a fun group from L.A.

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I’ve been in New Zealand now for three days.  Its absolutely incredible here.  As a matter of fact the mountain range that we are lodged next to is called the Remarkables!  The air here is much cooler than I expected it to be.  It is well known here that one can experience all four seasons in a day!

These first few days my fellow travelers and I have spent the time getting to know each other.  There are only three of us but I think it makes for a more flexible group.  We are now in Queenstown which is a town that boasts of both culture and beauty.  It sits on the banks of a spectacular lake with the Remarkables as the backdrop.

So far along our journey we have met with so many neat people.  People that I have really been able to sense that the Spirit of God is very strong upon their lives.  They have all been such an encouragement and an inspiration.

Last night we spent the evening having Shabbat dinner with a family that plays host to young travelers needing a place to stay.  Most of these travelers are actually Israeli.  On this particular evening there were around 30 or 40 people there to celebrate Shabbat.  We fellowshipped, had dinner, played games, and made music.  It was so neat to be around Israelis again!

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New Zealand is absolutely incredible!!!  And its not just the landscape.  For a week now I have lived the life of a backpacker.  Staying in the hostels has been a neat experience.  Its amazing how many people I have already met from around the world.  Germany, Chile, Israel and Sweden!  Because everyone who visits goes to the same places to hike and hang out, it is not uncommon to run into people multiple times.  I have actually found that I could really get used to living like this for a while!  The people here are so open to getting to know everyone they come in contact with.

I just finished playing cards with two people from Sweden and we are meeting them tomorrow to go to a place called Puzzling World.

Today we helped a family host a barbecue down by the water in Wanaka.  We passed out fliers all day and then offered free food.  Afterward one of the men got up and shared the love of God through words.  He shared about Jesus and there were a lot of conversations that followed.  Incredible!

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I’ve not been able to keep up with writing the way I thought I would while I’ve been here in New Zealand, but I have finally found the down time to sit and compose my thoughts and stories so far.

Living out of the hostels has been such a neat experience!  The people I have met and connected with have been as diverse as they have been many.  I have become aware of how sheltered I’ve been for so long.  Cultures and countries are so different that there is no way to really learn about them through studies.  You have to get out there and really experience them.

For the past couple of days we have been in a place called Milford Park.  Milford has so far been the most spectacular destination we have visited.  As you drive into the park the scenery begins to change.  The mountains begin to tower over you like giants.  I suddenly begin to feel very small.

I can say that this journey has not only been a tremendous physical journey but an emotional and spiritual one as well.  I have always been so dependent upon others and this trip has forced me from that dependency.

When we got to Milford Park we decided to take an afternoon kayaking trip through Milford Sound.  This was, by far, the most breathtaking and spectacular thing I have ever done!  Its amazing how small you suddenly become when sitting in between two mountains.  It was utterly spectacular!

We are now back in Queenstown.  This is probably my favorite little town here in NZ.  Tonight we will share Shabbat dinner again with friends and Israelis we have met along the way.

I could easily become a resident here.

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Its amazing how quickly one can become familiar and comfortable in new surroundings.  After three weeks of traversing this incredible country I feel as though I have become somewhat of a resident.  I now even have friends here that I’m finding hard to leave behind.  We met up again with Josephin and Marcus from Sweden.  I discovered that the only connection and familiarity I had with Sweden, a musician called Basshunter, is actually someone that no one from Sweden would actually admit to liking!  They called it drunk music.  I laughed when she shared this with me and I proceeded to try and sing the song in my best Swedish accent. When I asked her what the translation was she informed me that he wasn’t actually saying anything!  I was slightly disappointed in finding out that I couldn’t really speak Swedish.

I mentioned in the previous post that we went to a second Shabbat dinner at the same family’s home.  this was one of the most enjoyable evenings of this trip!  Earlier in the week we had met a small group of Israeli guys at a lookout point and had invited them to the dinner.  I was excited to see them walk up after we had arrived at the home earlier that evening.

One thing I have learned and love about the Israeli people is how incredibly social they are.  I have often found it easier to carry on a conversation with an Israeli than to actually try and talk with some Americans.  That evening was full of great conversations about everything from music and culture to faith and philosophy.  (I also found out the everyone in the world watches the Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.)  have become acquainted with people that I will ultimately never forget and people that I hope and pray to reconnect with in the future.

I already miss the people I met and already miss the incredible beauty of New Zealand.  I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and I hope to be able to travel back there again one day.