The last two nights I have been with very good people who have given the years of their lives to developing their creative gifts, and giving them away to the world wherever it is found. On Tuesday we were at Jammin Java with Mako Fujimura, and on Wednesday at the Birchmere with the Jars of Clay, both public square settings for all who love good art.

A question I have been asking for years now is this: can you sing songs shaped by the truest truths of the universe in language that the whole world can understand? The ways we answer that are in the vocations which are our lives, whether that is as a remarkably gifted painter as is Mako, or as a musically-imaginative band as is the Jars of Clay—or as butchers, bakers or candlestick-makers.

Mako lectured on “The Artful Life,” telling the stories of his life, reflecting on the surprising nexus of beauty to justice, especially born of his life only blocks away from Ground Zero on 9/11. Every word is weighty for him, poetically offered to all with ears to hear. The Jars of Clay sang their hearts out as they do night after night, all over the country and world, translating their deepest passions about God and the world into visions of a responsible love for things that matter, in the end giving a window into their own embodied commitment to the Blood:Water Mission, addressing the critical need for clean blood and clean water in Africa, born of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

As Hans Rookmaaker taught me many years ago now, art needs no justification. But art is never “for art’s sake.” Art is made by artists, human beings each one, called to see and hear the world, responsible to care for the world in and through their own unique vocations as story-tellers on stage and screen, on the pages and canvasses of our lives.

The artful life can be expressed in a thousand ways, but the best art is born of a life that understands that the beautiful and the broken are never far from each other, for everyone everywhere.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve