Interview with Michael Gungor by Crystal Kirgiss
If you read Part 1 of this interview, you know that Michael Gungor is a self-proclaimed wonder junkie, always longing and looking for it. Being continually tuned in to the wonder around him is just one piece of his artistic and human experience. Then comes the work – the very hard work – of creating. Not surprisingly, at that point there are plenty of critics, ready and willing to chime in with an opinion, suggestion, or judgment.
In The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse, Michael writes: “For the creator, there will always be the voices. Voices of critique. Voices of affirmation. The voices of the ego and the audience. The marketers, the fans, the bloggers, or the executives. The more exposure that an artist has to the outside world, the louder the voices will become. The more successful the work, the more people will step in to try to influence and manipulate the work for their own benefit. The creator has a decision to make. What voice will I listen to? This decision will give her creation its form.”
Great insight. Especially for an artist. But what about the rest of us? What does this have to do with, say, youth workers? Plenty, it turns out.
“Art,” Michael writes, “is a sacred expression of human creativity that shares the same ontological ground as all human work … the ordering of creation toward the intention of the creator.” In Michael’s view, we are all creators – even if we don’t consider our work art, even if the result is something plain, something merely practical. Sewers, for example (“sewers surely are the result of creative genius”). Or lock-in schedules. Or winter retreat sign-up sheets.
Because we all create, we all must learn to navigate the world of the voices.
Those of us in youth ministry are very familiar with the voices. Especially the outside voices. Parents. Executive pastors. Elders. Deacons. Janitors. Community leaders. Fill-in-the-blank. At times it may feel like our own personal collection of SNL Church Ladies. “Well, isn’t that precious?!”
But what about our own voices, our personal Inner Church Ladies as we like to call them at this year’s NYWC. What do we do with those?
I asked Michael that question, not just in the context of his music but his entire existence. “To me, that kind of pharisaical voice of judgment is rooted in fear. I definitely still have that voice, thinking I’m not good enough, comparing myself to others, wanting to do things in a way that makes me special and important. Those are voices of the ego, voices of fear.”
We all have them. We all hear them.
He goes on to say, “These days, I try not to make my decisions based on those voices. They’re there. They speak. But I don’t have to obey them. If there’s a situation where I have to choose one thing or the other, it’s important for me to pause and consider what the voices are saying, and why, before acting. We all need to develop an awareness that there’s this thing that’s speaking – ego and fear – and then not grasp onto it as the truth.”
In other words, tune it out. Don’t listen to it. Don’t believe it. Don’t obey it.
As Michael says to me: “I want to make decisions based in love, not fear.”
And as Michael writes to us all: “Love creates. Fear un-creates.”