What is faith—exactly? It is often lauded within pop and start-up culture as the common denominator to success along with hard work, discipline, desire and talent. Faith has traditionally been defined by the ability to maintain optimism in the face of disaster. In other instances, it has unfortunately been reduced to a simple state of hopeful emotion. Per scripture, faith is defined as: The substance of things hoped for; to be certain of the unseen—And without it, works are dead. When fully embraced and merged with the act of creativity, faith becomes a source of creative power that not only prevents artists from being held hostage by judgment or praise, but also opens up the pathway toward continual evolution in the face of the unknown.
During their journey with Christ, over the course of his three-year ministry, the Apostles asked him to make their faith greater. Most notable about their request was the fact that they had faith but wanted greater faith. In considering all of the miracles that they had witnessed and experienced up until that point, the question arises: Why would they ask for or have a need for greater faith? Their request hints to a larger quality of faith that is not based on belief or experience, but an inner compass of power that navigates through uncertainties ahead. For an artist, this unknown or uncertainty could exist in the struggle to remain authentic to individual calling in the midst of vapid commercialism, or the inner pull toward a new expression of creativity.
In response to the Apostles’ request, Christ replied: “If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it would obey you.” The faith ratio against the fear of the unknown is a testament to the power of faith—given that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds--and yet, faith is seemingly so hard to maintain grasp of, even as it is being developed through trial. In the face of the creative journey, why is creative faith so difficult to manage or retain?
The elusiveness of creative faith may also be driven by where it has been planted. When creative faith has been sown in depreciating markers of wealth or social approval, it becomes easily subjective to their ebb and flow. When creative faith has been anchored towards the production of art in support of the illumination, beautification and unification of humanity, then creative power is always present and living in what an artist creates. Creative faith endows the artist with the ability to continue searching, learning and developing with the expectation that the act of creativity will always prove of merit through the creative process or the end result or both. Creative faith is instrumental in producing a catalogue of art that will provide meaning and insight in perpetuity beyond the life of the artist who created it. Without creative faith, it becomes difficult to fully invest yourself in the necessary risk that underlies the creative process. Creative faith is the courage to explore.
Jazz master and mentor, Miles Davis was renowned for his innovation and his ability to reinvent himself and his art over the course of his career. That ability and power lies in his embrace of creative faith, and is also apparent in his style of playing and his generosity towards his peers, in the space he worked to create for others within his performances and recordings. Davis shared his thoughts on the core of creative faith and courage in the following excerpt taken from a republished 1985 interview via The Guardian:
“I mean, I can’t play Honeysuckle Rose--I was playing that--when I was 12. It’s a nice song for a show… there’s gotta be some different stuff, man. You can’t keep playing The Barber of Seville and stuff.
These things make critics comfortable because they know exactly what that is. They can wake up drunk and review it and they know exactly what it is-well, it sounds like Miles and Coltrane in the 60’s and that guy plays like Herbie Hancock-I don’t wanna hear that with my own ears.
There’s a lot of beautiful ballads besides all those. My Funny Valentine, it’s beautiful, but it’s been done to death. I’d rather play something that you can learn and like that you don’t know. I don’t want people to know what I am.”
Over the course of an artist’s development, creative faith is key towards fostering individual growth, guarding against the stagnation of artistic expression and developing the necessary courage to create forward--forsaking reliance on past wins or losses and providing passage through the dark passages of the creative and professional unknown.