The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

A Drawing Exploring the Holy Invitation to Labor and Rest With God, a Cry of my Heart.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, ink drawing

This drawing, a work in progress, represents an effort to illustrate and pray into the swirling cloud of thoughts, feelings and impressions I have surrounding the deep nature of work.  It is something continually at the front of my consciousness.  I think about the invitation to Adam and Eve on the eighth day- to enter into creation and labor as an act of cooperation with the Divine Creator.  I often think that work is more than just earning provision.  I wonder even if labor could be a sacrament.  Could the labor we undertake from day to day be like Archimedes’ Lever, positioned to move something really big?  Is it doing more than our perspective allows us to see?  My questions are shaped by a belief that the spiritual reality of the Universe is more vast and more real than the realm of our physical perceptions and measurements.  More specifically, is my conviction of a deeply interconnected relationship between everything we see and do in a physical sense with the unimagined unseen vastness of God’s goodness.  I believe creation and our place in it is, in a manner of speaking, a technology God gave us to engage the invitation to know and worship Him.  It was shattered almost immediately, it would seem, but through the finished work of the Cross, Christ established reconciliation.  (This is not a sermon, nor am I trying to prove anything, its just about a drawing and I’m leaving so much out!)

So, I think about that original invitation:  to labor in creation before “the Fall”, but there is more in that idea than my hopeless facility with language is up for.  Because it means tinkering intimately with the voice and breath of the King of the Universe, His output, His design.  It is like Thomas putting his finger in the side of Jesus, exploring. 

Everything is Spiritual

Everything is spiritual, because it was created by Him.  What am I really doing when I plant a tree, work in the soil, plane a board, move sheep, or make a drawing?  I adopted a monastic prayer decades ago:  “Jesus make the work of my hands into a prayer.”  It has evolved at times to, “Jesus make the work of my hands into worship.”  I know that I cannot.  I may be moving into the realms of heresy with that prayer- among other things.  At least may it be for His kingdom.  At least may it be for His glory.  How can I not worship Him when everything I touch and see was made by Him, and becomes part of our relationship?  If it is true, than the earth and everything that is in it is more sacred that we can possibly imagine, and it is laced with the fear of the Lord, in spite of everything that we have done to corrupt it, and in spite of everything God’s ancient enemy has done to corrupt it.  For the love of God!, all creation groans!  How long, Lord? (ok, that felt a bit like a sermon.)

Sonship & Apprenticeship

Work is a teacher.  The dynamic in this drawing that could sum up what the School of the Transfer of Energy is all about (though it is essentially about everything) is the sonship/apprenticeship of man to God in the field of the Earth.  The son/apprentice has the dignity of his learning being a part of something real, something bigger than his own mind and sphere.  He labors with discipline beside a father and master, absorbing more than can be said or written.  He sees the care and the purpose unfold on a daily basis.  He moves from confusion to understanding as more of the process is revealed to him through practice and living.  In a whole system, work is the technology of the teacher, the school and the relationship.  To work is being a daughter and a son.  It is also being a mother and a father.  

Rest

I can’t stop.  Sometimes I feel that I am made to work to such a degree that I cant stop until I’ve used myself up.  I admit it’s not the most balanced perspective, and it often surfaces when I’m neck deep in lambs or hay, or  stacked up projects.  I’ve been accused of working too hard, never sitting still, never resting.  There is the burden of my wealth of gifts and resources, the annual flood of ideas and inspiration, and the endless need of the world.  There is so much I desire to make and build and accomplish, which has resulted in a life-long struggle with the concept of “rest” in the sabbatical sense.  I am not good at it.  That is one perspective.  On the other hand, it could be that rest is inherent to labor.  The sleep of the labourer is sweet, whether he have eaten little or much.  Ecyclesiastes 5:12. 

The rest, then, is intertwined with labor.  Holistically speaking, it is “natural”.  It is woven in the fabric in the same way that the spiritual is with the physical (picture a well marbled steak or a vein of silver in a rock face).  The sabbath is part of the weave of the week., and also of the agricultural “week of years”.  In this way rest starts to become something that measures and punctuates, more about a pace or a cadence, a governor for the laborer’s engine.   

I wish I had language to talk about the sacredness of “body mechanics”:  how to dig a hole, how to bend properly, posture, etc., and how doing them properly integrates rest into the system.  How it isn’t just mundane, but part of our design and thus beautiful and “sacred”.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor, preliminary sketch.

Symbolism

By being about so much, this image is sort of a repository for many symbols I think about and use.  Tools themselves become symbols and can’t help but transform into speaking objects.  Saying their words and singing their songs about the work they do, and how they do it with grace and beauty, or lamenting how they must do it with heaviness and sadness.  The axe, the shovel, the pen… every symbol unlocks a door to another world. 

Then are the endless books of the trees and roots.  How growing trees lead me into appreciation of the seeming contentment of God to develop and grow things slowly (from my perspective).  Trees remind me that it is not about me, but about my children and their children, and the people I can’t foresee.  The 100 year or 200 year farm plan.  And there is more, there is so much more- but language can’t say it.  Only trees can say it.

There are more symbols, so many more it is mind numbing and I just can’t go on.  Another time, perhaps.

The Sanctuary

At first this little building was something I wanted to build on my dad’s land, when I was attempting the hermit’s life there.  I made drawings of it and multiple block prints functioning as prayers, asking God if it was something I could make.  I was truly desperate to build something that mattered, that could bring Him a tangible expression of glory.  It has yet to manifest, though I’ve always wondered about the sanctuary as I’ve aged.  Was it only a spiritual building?   Is it something that He is building me into?  Is it my cumulative life’s work?  Is it a foolish dream?  Idolatry, even?  Maybe I need to be older and more experienced to build it?  Can I build it now, on my own land?  

sketch of the Sanctuary from June of 2000

I was intrigued to see it resurface in this new drawing.  I can’t say I know why, but i’m asking.  As a symbol it represents much, but perhaps most significantly, of my desperate struggle to make my work into a prayer:  to tangibly engage with God on the physical space, my world, of paper, wood, soil, and pigments about what is in my heart – the relationship and the meeting place.  I’m on the earth grappling with heaven, or am I from heaven grappling with the earth?  I don’t know, but I am not among those who say we are just sojourner’s here, that we are just “passing through”.  I get it, and it is probably true, but I just can’t say it.  I live here, and I can’t ignore that it is part of His design.  

2003 print of The Sanctuary first printed in 2000

Perhaps this weaving of work and rest is the sanctuary?  I have more questions than answers.  Which is why I am on my knees.  Which is why I am making this drawing.  And which is why I work.   I do not know where else to go.

another print from 2000 about the Sanctuary, reprinted in 2003 

In Gratis

I have been doing this weblog for twelve years, which may be a pretty long time.  I haven’t offered much in the way of words in that time.  I’ve felt lately that I need to begin to venture into that territory.   Words tend to terrify me a bit.  I don’t always like them, because they never do what I want them to do.  They always leave me short, and feeling a little cheap or fraudulent.  I write one thing, then immediately see it from another perspective, so I write that, then it moves on me again, and it never ends.  Eventually I have to settle, knowing that I’ve said one thing that may or may not be true, but I’ve left greater multitudes unsaid.  I have failed.  That is what writing is to me, a perpetual string of failures, which is really unsatisfying.  So I have avoided taking that risk.  Until now.

Elie Wiesel wrote down this quote of the Kotzker speaking to a disciple:

Certain experiences may be transmitted by language, others- more profound- by silence; and then there are those that cannot be transmitted, not even by silence.  Never mind.  Who says that experiences are made to be shared?  They must be lived.  That’s all.  And who says that the truth is made to be revealed?  It must be sought.  That is all…

Thanks for reading, friends.  Thank you for your mercy and your grace and your acceptance.  Be at peace.

-Jack

A new print and BAUMWERKSHOP, our new online store

A Witness, the Heavenly Counsel, 2018 linocut print by Jack Baumgartner

Baumwerkshop

Marketing my work has always been precarious territory for me.  At a fundamental level, I am much more interested in making my work than trying to sell it.  Philosophically and morally, I struggle with the slippery slope of salesmanship and authenticity.  Authenticity as a word has already been pretty much trashed by our cultural trend towards filtered-authenticity in order to generate likes and sell products.  I am certainly guilty of it, myself.  Likes are addictive.  But it all leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  It is hard to not feel like marketing breeds a certain level of dishonesty that we have decided to be ok with as a society. 

Usually my work is both deeply personal and (I hope) deeply spiritual.  I struggle often with the feeling that I am prostituting both myself and the things of God when I set out to peddle these visual representations in the marketplace.  I don’t really have a satisfying resolution for this uncomfortable feeling, except for the opposing weight of the reactions of “my” audience, expressing a desire to share in these things.   

do want to sell my work and provide an income for my family and finance future projects.  It is a part of life and a part of growing, of being fruitful.  It is part of work, which is a divine invitation.

I have a calling to make art and what I hope are beautiful objects, and useful pieces of furniture.  I have a calling to make that work accessible to the culture I am a part of.  I want to try to do that in as straightforward a way as I know how.  This new web store is an effort to do that. 

You can get to the store by going to https://baumwerkshop.com, or you can select the menu of this sight and click on “Purchase Work“.  I really do hope that you will visit and let me know what you think.  I also really hope that you might purchase something, if you see something you like.  There should be some exciting new things showing up there in the coming weeks.

Thank you, for supporting me and following along on this journey.  God is good.

  • Jack

    

Mule Resophonic Witness

I recently completed work on the handmade certificate of authenticity for Mule Resophonic Guitars, shipping him the first Batch this past week.  I hope you enjoy the finished piece and a few photos of the printing process.

Mule Resophonic Witness, 2018 linocut, printed with sepia ink on French’s paper

The block after numerous printings becomes a beautiful object.

The first batch of prints sent off to Matt Eich, now to be included with every guitar he and his team build, including the name of the customer and the number of the guitar written in the banners at the bottom of the print.

inking the block

Tthe trusty and bespattered 4″ speedball brayer.

A detail of the inked block.

Registering the paper on the block and press bed using a simple jig.

The delicate task of lifting the print from the block post printing.

print and block side by side

Examining the proof for flaws

The much reworked original drawing of the design.

The Rich Story of Carved Lines

Usually the prints I make are deeply personal illustrations of my heart, vision and journey.  From the early days printmaking has been, to me, a form of prayer, offering up to the Father layers of concern and expression of things I do not often fully comprehend.  Within that context is a platform to explore the visualization of spiritual concepts, revelations and principles- basically a blundering effort to make the unseen seen on some level.  I wonder that I am taken up with making a “graven image”  and how that settles with the second commandment (Exodus 20 verse 4 if you are interested).  Hopefully, what I am making are objects that are doors or windows that might lead one into worship, certainly they are far from worshipful in themselves.  I take comfort that the Merciful One will ultimately be the judge of my heart on this one.

These images here, are a divergence in a way, in that, they are the mixture of my expression and visual language with the story and purpose of two other entities.  The first of those is Matt Eich of Mule Resophonic GuitarsHe has been building these beautifully crafted and, by all accounts, almost magically sounding guitars for five years now.  The resulting print will be the certificate of authenticity that will be presented with every instrument that he sells.  Matt is passionate about story and building rich relationships with his customers, and he invests personal expression into every instrument.  His sense of story has been woven together with mine here, I hope.

On a technical level, I am always in an attempt to push myself past where I was before in my work. It may only be in a way that is visible to my own eye. With printmaking I compose a design and I wonder if I will be able to pull it off- if the level of detail will translate as a small mammal, or a vine, or a bird- or just a confused tangle of ink. Many times it has resulted in the confused tangle. This print for Matt has tons of this risk built into the design, and I think his spirit has elevated me, because I somehow feel a door has been unlocked.  Of course, I really won’t know until the ink hits the paper- but there is hope that these tiny branches will be able to speak.

The second entity is the musical trio Sister Sinjin.  My good friend Elizabeth Duffy is part of this group of women who sing devotedly to the glory and love of God.  This image from this block will become the cover art for their upcoming record.  The contemplative spirit of their music really seems to offer a counterpoint to the industrious detail of the print I’m making for Matt.  I’ve noticed and appreciated the contrast as I have been working back and forth between these two blocks.  The quite offering of the woman and the persistent labor of the plowman.  Both have offered a lot of opportunity to grow and develop and express, and I am grateful.  There are many photographs of the carving process below, which is still underway in both cases, though I am nearly done with the Sister Sinjin block.

Walking Man, Jonah, and The Ancient Ocean

Walking Man, Jonah, and the Ancient Ocean, oil painting on a poplar panel by Jack Baumgartner, 14.5″ x 22″, 2017

Upper panel, Walking Man striding through the arch

Lower panel, Jonah, swimming, yields to the sea monster

detail of the upper panel, with barn owl, Burr oak and cliffs.

Upper panel detail with symbolic structures

Lower panel detail of Jonah

The completion of a painting generally means a decision to stop working on it, otherwise the cycle would never end.  This painting, which was begun in October of 2009 reached that generally unheralded milestone of “completion” this fall, 6 years later.  Technically, the work is not entirely done, as I have yet to build the frame for it, which, especially for my panel paintings, represent a significant part of the presentation and outer composition.  I hope share some of the meaning behind this painting at some future date.

 

Walking Man Sketches

Walking Man Eats Alfalfa Roots

Walking Man Listens To the Roots Talking To One Another

Walking Man Looks Backwards Into Time

Walking Man Hefting Bodark Roots and His Water Pot

Walking Man Encounters the Spirit of the Lord In a Night Heron

Night Heron Detail

Walking Man Finds Strength and Purity and the Morning Dew

Tools of the Mystic (The School of the Transfer of Energy Lexicon)

Ministers of Beauty (S.T.E. Lexicon)

Hyper-Symbolic Tools for Use in the Transfer of Energy (S.T.E. Lexicon)