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by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Truly, the coolest and jaw-droppingest thing that has happened to me this spring was getting these photos from Austin’s redoubtable David Taylor, who was hanging around SXSW last month (in his smooth, I-live-in-Austin-so-of-course-I-hang-out-at-SXSW way) when he ran across Justin Girdler, a local filmmaker and director based at Gateway Church.

At Austin’s Transforming Culture Symposium last year, I gave a talk about the importance of the arts and artists in the Christian community. I observed that artists are professionally committed to two perfectly unuseful and absolutely essential things: play and pain. Art is, in a deep sense, play—in the sense that musicians “play”—an exploration of the beauty, fruitfulness, and wonder of the world. Yet art also inevitably brings us into pain, confronting the mystery of our suffering and brokenness. In fact, I suggested, we need artists who are willing to do both at once, neither to play without pain (escapist entertainment) or inflict pain without play (which ends up as masochism and cynicism).

As readers of Culture Making know, you can never predict what new culture will be created in response to your own creativity. So here’s what Justin created . . . and somehow it’s appropriate that a tattoo embodies, so very literally, play and pain itself. May all authors live to see their words taken so seriously!

tattoo intertwining words play and pain

picture of Justin Girdler
Photos by David Taylor used by permission of the photographer and the tattoo-ee.