Don't we all yearn for artistic freedom, to be creative without having to sell out or settle? I sure do. And the one thought that paralyzes me, that prevents me from even thinking too much about art or artistic freedom is, "That's a first world problem. Millions of people are starving. Art is not important and I have no right to think about art or participate in it at all, when there's so much injustice in this world and so many people are being slaughtered and trafficked and don't even have enough food to eat. I should be serving the poor, curing AIDS, and disassembling land mines and institutionalized racism instead, or at least using art to raise funds for these causes. Art is not for happiness or joy. Happiness and joy are immoral until all the world's problems are fixed."[M]ost days I consider myself lucky that I have a fun, secure job and a good paycheck. But I know deep in my heart that I settled. I chose financial and creative stability over artistic freedom, and I can't help but wonder what life would be like if I had made a different decision . . .I've come to a realization over the years: I am not the only person who has made this choice. I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren't good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront out own role in this paralysis. Just the possibility of failure turns into a dutiful self-fulfilling prophecy. We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are in fact, the fixed limitations of the world. We go on to live our lives, all the while wondering what we can change and how we can change it, and we calculate and re-calculate when we will be ready to do the things we want to do. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Some day.
Then I feel depressed and sluggish and end up doing neither art nor charity. Some days I think, "To hell with it! I'm going to be creative and I don't care if that's wrong or frivolous or stupid, or if all the world's problems aren't fixed yet!" Then I get distracted by my crushing student loan payments and see nothing but indentured servitude in my future, and I get depressed all over again. I feel like writing, comedy, theatre, dance, music, photography, videos, painting, drawing, sculpting, jewelry-making, installation art and other forms of inspiration and expression I prefer are off-limits to me. They are not allowed because I already have so much white privilege. How dare I ask for art on top of that? I should be ashamed. I am ashamed. Gluttonous foo'.
Sometimes I remember one of the gold nuggets of advice that Carmen gave me when I was at ASU: that life is difficult for all living organisms.
For some reason that phrase is a comfort to me. Life is hard for amoebas, for lichens, for crocodiles, for antelopes, and for all humans young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy, black and white and red and yellow and green and purple. Everything that is alive suffers. That is what life on Earth is like.
I've met people who are outraged all the time, and I don't want to be one of them. I don't want them to latch onto me like a drowning person and drag me down to their angry depths. Maybe being outraged all the time is counterproductive. As Susanna McMahon says, "Trying to make the world fair is both destructive and self-defeating. Many good-natured people run around trying to fix the unfairness of it all . . . the paradox here is that the acceptance of the reality that life is unfair often leads to behaviors which are more objective, more loving and caring, and more realistic than the behaviors of the non-accepting. These accepting ones are often perceived as more 'fair' than those who are trying to force the world to be fair."
Then Debbie from up at the top, there, says to not accept your self-imposed limitations, but to "start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy love sickness, and run with it . . . Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now."
So I am going to start. First by surrounding myself with art and artists and their thoughts on a daily basis, so my very technical job doesn't dry me out like a corn husk. If I am a consistent digester of color and inspiration, then eventually I'll secrete colorful and inspiring work, right? If I put myself on a diet of art, then its openness, curiosity, and vividness will be absorbed into my blood and infuse my brain with things other than the contracts and numbers which dull my senses during the work day.
Whew. 05:00 here in the northern latitudes, chimples, and time for bed. So I leave you with an enchantment. Azam Ali is an artist who has led a fascinating, globe-trotting life. Here, one of her songs is set to video (although the lady in the video is not Azam herself). Still, some exquisite videography to draw you in while the music mesmerizes: