I just had the opportunity to spend some time in New Orleans for work. The hotel we were at was right on Rue Bourbon, right in the middle of the French Quarter “action”. New Orleans strikes me as a conflicted city. The question struck me while I was there:
Who is more guilty, the city that caters to a debauchers, or the people who flock to a city to live out their debaucheries?
The answer, to me is that we all individually have to answer to the Creator of history for our own actions. The people who visit the city, and those that run the city. As a tangential note to the discussion, after Katrina, New Orleans did have a clean slate from which to rebuild their image, but they chose to pursue the same course.
What struck me most about the trip is that New Orleans represents the conflict that each of us as artists must face. It is a picture of the war for our souls that rages in our flesh. Of all the places I’ve been in the last couple years, and the list is extensive, no city compares to New Orleans in the abundance of “gifts”.
- New Orleans has some of the best food in the nation. A distinct style found nowhere else in the world. The mixture of cultures produces creative and innovative gastronomical delights that do not exist in one place anywhere else I’ve been.
- New Orleans has some of the world’s best music and musicians. The city is responsible for entire genres of music and is home to numerous past and present musical greats. Nashville would probably beat out Nawlins in talent per capita, but the sheer talent is astounding. Street musicians on Royal street, families of musicians, musicians with nothing but trashed instruments, all carry more musical talent in their cheeks than I do in my whole body.
- New Orleans is home to some of the best art in the nation. Galleries abound and on a more local level, Jackson square is surrounded by local artists plying their craft, displaying amazing raw talent–most without the benefit of art school or mentorship.
- New Orleans has some of the nicest and kindest people I have met in many travels. The people are the true gem of New Orleans, happy to chat, to share a story, to ask about you, to engage. Truly delightful people.
On the converse side, New Orleans has some of the worst crime in the nation (if not THE worst). Parts of New Orleans are not safe to drive through, let alone stroll through. The degraded culture of the French Quarter has filtered through the city, leaving a stench of violence, alcoholism, addiction, and poverty. The streets of the French Quarter (Bourbon in particular and connecting side streets) assail the senses with a cocktail of offensive odors–urine and vomit, alcohol, trash, etc. Every morning, crews use soap and water to clean the streets and sidewalks. EVERY MORNING. Not once in a while, but every morning. A city so dirty that it needs a bath every morning is not a healthy city.
So how does this apply to us? Aren’t we, as artists in the same battle? We have been given talents and gifts by God in abundance. But the enemy seeks to create in us a craving for the things of the flesh. We seeking after our own fame. We covet the lifestyle that is associated with popularity. We view artistic success as performance and accolades of large crowds. We see the depravity of Hollywood, but still desire the trappings.
Because of this, we seek the easy road to fame. Like Bourbon Street, we pursue the easy route. The easy recording contract, the fast track to our dreams, the “atta boys” and the “way to go’s” of men. But like Bourbon, it is a path to destruction and not to life.
Sometimes (and I mean this to apply to us individually, it is not a commentary on the nature of hurricane Katrina), God will send a hurricane our way to strip us down to the basics again and give us the opportunity to rebuild on the right foundation.
You might be in a hurricane season, you might be recovering from one, or you might be destined for one. How will you respond, or how are you responding? God wants us to reflect the Kingdom of God, which is paved with gold. Are we keeping the streets clean, are we having to wash them every morning, or have we just let them fall into disrepair?