A Rush of Inspiration

An exploration into one of the most incredible parts of being a writer or creator through the lens of religion.

Art is something that draws on the human experience in a way that cannot be properly described. Humans have been obsessed with creating things since their very beginning, putting their energy and emotions into essentially creating something out of nothing. Rarely do we stop to think about how incredible talents really are. With our thoughts and our efforts, we truly become creators and, without us, whatever we created would have never existed due to the ‘fingerprints’ we each leave on the object that is fashioned. Art, at its core, is something magical no matter the form of avenue that it takes. Sculpting, painting, building, composing, designing, playing, or writing; each area brings such power and majesty that humanity can hardly even begin to resist. And it is all so deeply complex and unique- Lithuanian Art is different from Japanese Art which is different from Mexican Art, yet at their core, they hold the same emotions, desires, and goals.

In Ancient Greece, this love for art was ascribed to ‘The Nine Muses’: Clio(history), Euterpe(music/flutes), Thalia(comedy), Melpomene(tragedy), Terpsichore(dancing/choirs), Erato(love poetry), Polymnia(sacred poetry), Urania(astronomy), and Calliope(epic poetry). They were all children of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Interestingly enough, Mnemosyne was a Titaness who presided over the area of memory, an apt realm for what her children would become known for as what are the arts but memories and emotions made concrete? They were an incredibly popular group for worship and respect and even had their own four year contest (Museia) in Greece where there would be much singing and dancing. Like many of the members of the Greek Pantheon, they had their own cult as well and served as the embodiment of all things creative.

Even nowadays, their influence is seen such as in the words ‘museum’ and ‘music’. Artists often refer to the inspirations they are given or the people that influence them as their muse. It brings with it the connotation that the muses themselves have descended below to grace the artist with the talent and understanding needed to complete whatever they are working on. Or, as the Disney movie Soul puts it, they are ‘In the Zone’. Such a flood of inspiration is what truly makes artistic expression addictive. It’s no surprise that the Ancient Greeks ascribed the realm of arts to the Gods because the atmosphere and mindset that descends on an artist at times truly is supernatural or otherworldly. It hits often like a flash of lightning, filling the soul and mind of the creator with motivation and power as they race to catch as much of the light in their hands as they can before it disappears. And it never gets old.

I’ve had times where I have sat down to write, been struck with such inspiration out of nowhere, and suddenly find myself coming up for air an hour later with thousands of words written on a word document, my hands barely able to keep up with the speed of my thoughts. It’s an incredibly potent and powerful thing and it is what drags people into the arts time and time again. Another incredible connection the Ancient Greeks made on this topic is in regards to the Olympian god Apollo. Apollo is the god of the Sun, of prophecy’s, of plague and disease, but he was also the god of music. How apt is it that the god in charge of such a vital thing as the sun also had music ascribed to him? The romantic writer in me can’t help but connect the light of the sun with the light that comes from music: both, to me, are absolutely vital for the thriving of humanity and to lose either one would be to doom the world to destruction. Also, Apollo is set apart from the other gods as the god of prophecy, showing a truly supernatural and otherworldly ability that truly matches the power of the realm of music and art.

In a more Christian setting, there is the speech ‘Happiness, Your Heritage’ by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf which speaks about how divine inspiration can come from artistic creation, echoing the connection the Ancient Greeks made between the Arts and the Muses. “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.” Elder Uchtdorf speaks about how art begets happiness and that God is a Creator at His core. So, when we seek to be artistic, we are truly emulating Him, awakening the divine spark that exists within all of us. As for the role that the arts play in church service? Hymns are such a vital part of church, no matter the denomination, and I honestly could not imagine going without having to sing while there. Everytime I open my hymnbook, I am excited to sing, no matter if I sing it perfectly or not(echoing another incredible talk, this one given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1976 called ‘The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord’). There is truly something magical that singing in a group can create and, apparently, that is something the Ancient Greeks realized themselves considering that they made Terpsichore the Muse of dancing and choirs.

Whatever you may call it or wherever you believe such artistic expression comes from, the reality is that it exists and endlessly pulls more and more people under its influence as the years and centuries go on. Art is everywhere in the world, expressed in so many different ways. From books, to songs, to movies, to paintings, to sculptures, to gardens, to food, to dances, to clothing, to acting, to building; it is truly the heartbeat of humanity, bringing life and light into our existence and making it all worthwhile. It is something that has called to me endlessly since I was a child and continues to do so, the power and beauty that it creates irresistible for me to escape- and I don’t want to for it brings such happiness to me. It is through the expression of Art that we can all step beyond the bounds of the lives we have as we are lifted up to a higher plain of existence time and time again, filled with light and inspiration that evokes a change in us and all those around us who deign to partake in such a creation. That, is the power of art.