"Angry words won't stop the fight
Two wrongs won't make it right
A new heart is what I need..."
Hello, True Believers,
It's been a tough week in our nation, so this post will be a little more reflective, not preachy, yet something of a call to action with a focus on your creative life.
I've done a lot of thinking about the events of this week, and felt a need to speak to it, while still staying true to the spirit of this blog. It is not my intention to ever be political here, nor do I think this should be a pulpit where I get to hammer my opinions like the nut uncle ranting at the barbeque. It was always my intention for this blog to share insights into the creative process, inspire you to make art and appreciate the art around you more.
The week began with the loss of one of our greatest, Elie Wiesel. I think we need to start with his example. We must bear witness to the events this week. No sane person can see the things that happened this week and not think for a moment that what happened is a direct result of the faulty thinking that leads to polarization, that prevents openness and a real examination of the root problems that we as a nation must address, person by person, starting with ourselves. What passes for political debate right now, be it about guns, race, the role of law enforcement, the hidden poison of bias, is no more than a breakdown in the importance of critical thinking. It's not that we're not asking the right questions, it's that we're not asking questions. We are not bearing witness because we're not stopping to think and reflect and, most importantly, bring our higher selves to the discussion.
That's where art comes in. I believe that fully. Wiesel used the power of literature to share his experience and bear witness. Picasso poured everything he had into "Guernica", his greatest work, intended to bear witness to the suffering of his people. James Baldwin wrote deeply about being black in modern America.
I remember a friend of the teenaged me telling me about this little band from Ireland that was singing a lot about what was going on in the world. I bought that album and listened to it about ten times in a row. It's important for art to generate emotion, anger and outrage. It's important for art to take time to call us to action, to call us to sane action.
But more importantly, art is what brings us together as human beings. What made Wiesel's work so powerful was his ability to connect with the natural confusion a child experiences as he grows up. "Guernica" is an amazing work of shape, nuance and form. Baldwin writes beautifully as a human being in a way that shares the anger of his own experience in a way that helps us understand that experience. U2 used melody, passion and a knack for the poetic to get us to pay attention to what's going on around us. That is the power of art.
When you express yourself, by building a bookshelf, by writing a song or a play or a story, by painting or sculpting an image, what you're really doing is tapping into the universal connection that we all share as human beings. Even if you're bad at it, you're trying to bring yourself in touch with something higher, something we all share. If there's something we really need to do right now, it is to find that mutual connection we all share as members of humanity.
Art, your art, has the power to do that. Use it to connect with someone. Make it the bridge, or at least the stepping stone, to connecting with someone you might not like that much. Art is where we communicate that we all wish to avoid suffering and find happiness, every single one of us.
The smallest step makes a difference, word by word, brushstroke by brushstroke, note by note. Be brave.
If we don't, who will?
"Take this heart, and let it break..."