#STORY2012 :: Makoto Fujimura – Till the Soil

Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Fujimura served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts.

Till the Soil

  • I am excited to be here with you to seek into the mysteries of this world.
  • I raised my children in a place called Ground Zero. New York City.
  • We struggled to remain there. To try to live out what we felt we were called to do. To be an artist. Such a hard thing isn’t it?
  • To ask God everyday to sustain you and your family.
  • How can you possible do all these things? Or to even think that your contribution can be enduring.
  • Real artists don’t think about 15 seconds, or 15 minutes of fame.
  • They think about 100 years from now. They think about 500 years from now.
  • What kind of a culture will our children, and grandchildren, and their children live in?
  • My mother was a creative educator, and my father was a scientist, and it was assumed that you would do creative things.
  • I was always an artist.
  • I think all of us are artists. Somehow in 3rd grade, someone tells you, you’re not. Then you wake up when you’re 40 or 50 and realize that you’ve done all these things that the world has told you to do, but you ask, “What have I created?” 
  • There is a longing inside all of us asking “What have I made today?”
  • We miss this in our world.
  • The bottom line is always about something else. Not about who we are as human beings.
  • We end up missing this conversation.
  • I want to speak to you a passage in the Bible.
  • Matthew 13 talks about the power of the sower. I speak about moving into thinking about our culture in the same way that we begin to think about our environment. That we need to leave this earth intact for the next generation and beyond. But culture too is an environment, and it needs our care and stewardship.
  • We have inherited this culture that is highly polluted.
  • I tell musicians and artists, “Don’t be a catfish.” Don’t be a bottom feeder. Be a trout. Swim upstream into the pure waters, and create there, because if you can then you’re going to do more to purify the waters, than you would if you flow downstream. 
  • Be a trout. Transform the river. 
  • In this passage Jesus talks about a seed, and the first thing he does is goes to the beach and gets in a boat.
  • He is talking about taking care of the soil.
  • I’m amazed by that first sentence. Jesus is an artist.
  • I think he is going to the beach intentionally, because what do you do at the beach? You watch the ocean, right?
  • He wants you to use your imaginations. He wants you to use poetic language. He’s speaking as a prophet. As a prophet of the old.
  • The Bible is full of agrarian language.
  • Don’t do everything for a purpose.
  • It isn’t about utility or function. You need place where you can just do what you do because you love it. Don’t just do it because you’re hired to do something.
  • My son who is 23 has started this amazing business. He studied math, but then came to me and said he wanted to do design.
  • Best efficient algorithm is beautiful.
  • 17.5×17.5 inches. That’s all you need to change and shape the culture. Emily Dickinson got up every morning at 3 AM to write. The desk was just for her poems. No one knew that she was writing poems. When she died, her sister discovered this box beneath her bed. In this box were 1,000 poems that were stitched very carefully in what is now called the fasicals. 
  • If you have to ask if you’re called to the arts, then you’re not called to the arts. 
  • This isn’t about finding a publisher, or a gallery, or finding a place in the marketplace for your work.
  • It’s about your desk.
  • She knew that her poems were like bulbs deeply rooted in the soil
  • The parable of the sower was not about the seed. Because the seed was perfect. It was about Jesus. He is taking you on a journey and saying that the seed is good, but where the seed lands is the issue. It’s about the soil. When you pickup the soil, you’re picking up layers and layers of dead things. And that’s what our lives as artists are all about.
  • A good farmer knows that a good soil is a good soil because it has gone through many winters.
  • I know many of you are going through winter times.
  • I want to encourage you, Emily knew that the soil condition wasn’t right for her, and today it isn’t right for you, but there will come a day when the spring is coming. The snow is melting. There is good news in Narnia.
  • Your time will come. It may not be during your lifetime. But that’s okay.
  • Write your recipes for life, and send it out into the world as a gift. 
  • May your art be like Emily’s flowers. Never asking for much, but in the end, they are the life itself.

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