Collaborative work of art

Before I die, Community Collaborative Art, Candy Chang, New Orleans

“Love is a collaborative work of art.”
– Lakeoff & Johnson (1980)

Fall has finally arrived on the prairie. Thanksgiving is a few days away, the north wind has just frosted the tender blooms of summer, and the dark is rising. As if introspection weren’t already an Olympic event in the Hobbit House, dark days invite more quiet, more aloneness, more thoughtfulness…or distraction. In the darkest season, our lives become collaborative; we seek one another to stave off the cold blowy long nights over coffee, a beer, at the movies…around the table.

Thanks to a steady diet of time with friends, quiet seeking, running, and a curated feast of Ted Talks, I’ve returned slowly to a position of learner – open, slightly hopeful, confidence slowly rising. Last Friday among the Ted Talks, I heard a speaker cite researchers George Lakoff and Mark Johnson from Metaphors We Live By, “Love is a collaborative work of art.”

Ahhhhh. Yes.

Love shared sows seeds which grow in the fertile soil of composted failure, frost, care, hope, and commitment. The canvas need not be rosy and perfect nor the stories absent of pain. But the collaboration must remain. Though it changes and adapts – grows over time – sticking it out brings forth a beauty promised.

The music depends upon shared work of conductor and each artist in the orchestra.

Love as Art, like the Sistine Chapel, can prove miracles wrought over time. My favorite stories are those where relationship and love is restored. To be clear, I am not thinking of my last season of heart, but of our season forward as a nation united.

When a relationship is too-long relegated to the efforts of one and not the other or others, it no longer looks like love, but something else. Something draining. Something dying. A barren field or overgrown garden. What do we do to bring back the poetry of that space among us? How to raise us from what we thought we were to what we can be…for us all?

I’ve been reflecting on this love-collaboration-art dynamic since last week and now see it more expansively than at first I understood.

Family is a collaborative work of art.
Community is a collaborative work of art.
Friendships…neighborhoods…businesses…universities…countries are collaborative works of art.

Sometimes the art is warm and rich.
Sometimes the collaboration is disjointed and unfinished…abandoned.
Sometimes the work ends abruptly – painfully – as it should for life to continue.
Sometimes the result looks more like dystopian apocalyptical end-of-world Hieronymus Bosch nightmare fest.

We have a choice.
If we have the derring do.

We begin today toward love
healthy collaboration

or not.

While you think of this and your many choices ahead, let the Avett Brothers sing, No Hard Feelings. Please take a moment to listen. To watch this collaborative work of art unfold over time. If you watch the video, you’ll see what I mean.


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