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An Artist’s Call For Omnivorous Attentiveness to the World Around Us

When people ask me how many hours I work a week I find it a difficult question to answer as an artist. There is a calling on the artisan soul to always be awake to the story unfolding all around us second by second, detail by detail.

It is a necessity to have what I once heard CS Lewis had — an “omnivorous attentiveness” to the world around us.

Of course, films are necessary to watch to be a filmmaker. In fact, the summer before I attended NYU for my MFA in film, there was a list of more than 50 films that were required viewing before starting my first semester. I didn’t quite make it through the whole list, but it did really open my eyes to the breadth of film history. In fact, most film classes require watching movies at any film school (much to the chagrin of the engineers in college when my homework looked quite different — no calculator needed!

It makes sense that homework for filmmakers would be watching movies, but likely this is applicable to all arts. A painter studies paintings, musician knows music history, and so on. But artists can’t only study and be familiar with their own discipline, as an artist, we are called to see all of the world, even the parts we’re uncomfortable with.

CS Lewis was said to have an omnivorous attentiveness where he would walk to work and notice even the uniqueness of the granules of dirt along his path. He appreciated the details of the world, and that is an inspiration and a admonition to all artists.

But as I continued to think about this unique outlook on the world, I realize that in the same way artists are always “on the clock,” always observing all hours of the day in order to be ingested into influencing their craft, Christians also have a similar calling to notice the world and its intricacies. God’s creation is full of beautiful, intricate details that may take all eternity to appreciate, but the most prized of all of creation was the Imago Dei… Us. We were the final aspect of creation in the Genesis story and God gave us special designation when we were made in His image.

Being in God’s image means that we are all on the clock, called, and on mission to see the world as God sees us. Christians are called to have an omnivorous attentiveness to the world and its details and always have our shoes on and tied. As CS Lewis wrote,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
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