In Proverbs 8, Wisdom says:
Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. (vv. 1-5)
On a cold Saturday at the end of November, right before Thanksgiving, about twenty people gathered into a small house generously donated by a friendly organization to listen to me talk for an hour. They were people intentionally invited to share an intimate experience with me, which was the book of hours I created over the last year. I invited each person individually to the performance, and they were mainly people I have met over the last year in Dallas.
At the bottom of this post, you can see the intimate setup. The stage was a music stand, a stool, and a lamp. Each audience member, upon arriving, selected a hand-held instrument to use, and they marked the transitions from hour to hour with their instruments.
The contents of the piece comprised approximately forty pages of text, with poems, essays, readings, recipes, and ponderings from the last year of my life. I performed with no makeup, in a sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. I left my ideas about who I was and who I was supposed to be at the door, and I let who I was in honesty lead the way forward. It was very scary, and I still don’t know if I did it “right,” but I know that in that space of speaking and being listened to, I learned a lot.
I have plans in the works to continue this piece. My dream is to tour it to all the places where I have community, and to share it with those communities.
When I began this project in January, I had anticipated creating a large online resource. However, after much discussion with friends and evolution of my own ideas, what I realized was that this would not, actually, be in the spirit of the book of hours or of wisdom. A book of hours was a personal object, made with painstaking work, made for someone on a journey of self-discovery. The template I made for my own book of hours was my own version of that, and it was how I performed it.
What I know of wisdom, what I have learned over the last year, is that it is created in the space between people, in communication and understanding. I think Wisdom herself, in Proverbs 8, understands this. As I meditated on the figure of wisdom, standing at the gate, or on the hill, I was struck by the comparable women throughout history, who have called out truth to the masses, often without response, or little response. There is nothing impersonal about it, nowhere to hide behind. To be Wisdom, you have to put your body in space, speaking words, to others. It is just that simple. To receive and ask for wisdom is a deeply personal experience, and a radical sharing of oneself with others
In that spirit, I have chosen to share only a piece of what I created that night. However, in thinking about how to share with you the process that I went through, I decided the most beneficial offering I could make would be a template, which you can download here. The template is a guide to making your own book of hours. I suggest doing it with others: perhaps six others, so everyone can take on a day.
I continue on my quest to make contemplative objects for others: that practice will take longer and be more time-intensive than I had imagined, but I have found each moment spent creating to be an incredible gift.
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Read Lauren’s artist bio here.
These images are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
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