a credo

Thinking it is a good idea, I start reading the brief for the work that I am doing for my college course. I find with surprise that by the end of this course I will have worked autonomously to develop a portfolio “of character with a personal credo.”

A credo. Suddenly we are in deeper waters than I had expected. “Any formal or authorised statement of beliefs, principles or opinions.” From the latin – credere, meaning to believe.

A word that carries a lot of tension – the online etymology dictionary says that it can be derived from two root words, meaning “literally ‘to put one’s heart'”. My immediate feeling or reaction, that I have never been able to agree with this, which seems to be an invention and legacy of the Christian church: this telling us where we ought to put our hearts; that we ought to fix it, write it down, make it formal, give it authority. The human heart – does it always go where you want it to go, or stay where you put it? There are many wonderful aspects of Christianity, but the Credo is not something that I am interested in or have ever been interested in.

When I was about seven or eight, I was invited to join the Brownies, and I wanted to join, because I had friends there and they did fun stuff; and so I read the little booklet that they gave me – and there was a bit where there was a pledge, you had to say something about allegiance to Queen, and about believing in God. And I said I can’t say those things, the Queen means nothing to me and I do not believe in God, I can’t join; and I didn’t join. In so much, I am still the person I was when I was seven or eight, and things are as simple to me now as they were then. (Probably, hopefully, they got rid of that from the Brownies, but I expect the church has kept its Credo, or perhaps Credos.)

A personal credo. In secular times we have invented the ‘personal credo’ to attempt to replace the authority of the church, and now we expect it to be able to be both clearly stated and put in front of people for judgement. But are we actually sure that we want to encourage people to carve these things in stone on a mountain? Who outside of myself authorises my personal credo I wonder, and how will it be possible for an examiner to give a percentage point to it? Or is it a one / zero sort of question? Has she got one? Tick yes, cross for no.

And so, do I want one, do I have one?

I wrote a letter to myself on the 10th of March, drawing on the work of David Whyte, and which may be the closest to a personal credo that I have right now. [With the proviso that I reserve the right to change my mind every day for the rest of my life.]

You are assembling something, and just because you can’t see it whole yet, can’t see what it is, does not mean that it is not something whole or beautiful, or maybe for a moment profound.

Yesterday you wrote about the strangeness, the unfamiliarity of the ordinary. This is a fundamental perception, that we don’t know reality until we go out of ourselves to meet it; we mustn’t assume or pretend knowledge. Reality is brutal, it has hard edges, and we want it tame or knowable, but this is a failure of courage. The roughness of rock, this is part of what the mountain is. These elemental conversations. The spin and orbit of the planet, the depth of time. The seen and the unseen, the ‘tidal conversation’ in us. There is no standing still.

Any solace can only be found here. David Whyte has written that “to be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands”. So an invitation, into mystery, strangeness. Of course he expresses it so well, but if you could, if you can, this comes to what you want to express in the drawings, the paintings.

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