Freshman Stephanie Schauder expalins how art and interpretation can display different points of view on a single Biblical text.
Recently at Methodist College Fellowship we engaged in a new activity to explore our creative impulses. First we listened to Ashley Thomas, the campus minister, read a Psalm out loud, each person listening for words or phrases that resonated most with them at that particular time. Psalm 139 is a long passage with much room for individuals to choose very different themes to explore. Once everyone had contemplated the verse, we got to play. There were glue sticks and paper of every color. There were no rules. We were not restricted from talking, but there was not much dialogue because everyone was engaged in such deep concentration. I began to rip up the paper as I contemplated the Psalm’s section about God’s incomprehensible knowledge. For at least thirty minutes I ripped and crumpled and glued paper. I am not sure what exactly I made when my creation was complete, but it seemed to represent the thoughts in my mind in a way I could never express them in words.
I had not paid much attention to what other people were doing throughout this process, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to share our creations at the end. I was so startled that everyone seemed to take something completely different from this single verse. We had images of hope, fear, and awe. Some people chose to rip the paper into small bits, and some chose to use big chunks. Some chose a two-dimensional display and some experimented with texture, crumpled paper, and pop-up images. One person even modeled her creation on the same phrase that I did, but our results were entirely different. In general, I was overwhelming impressed by the beauty of each person’s creation and the meaning behind it.
This exercise helped me to realize that even though we may all be reading the same text, our own beliefs, circumstances, and past experiences can lead us to interpret this text in completely different ways. Even having this knowledge, it is still not easy to see exactly how our own thoughts and feelings can affect us. Just as I was not able to convey exactly what was spinning through my mind as I created my image, I have to believe that my friends’ explanations of their images were only limited to the aspects they could articulate. This activity was both a creative outlet, and an insight into the workings of the mind. I often assume that other people reason the same way I do, but this exercise reinforced that we are wonderfully unique and insightful in our own ways.