Trying to get away from acting, being people that we aren’t for whatever reasons, and instead, doing what matters most to us.
Art is that interesting piece inside each one of us. It’s that thing you can’t not do. In providing spaces to be, we allow people to find, grow, and create their art. If people are doing, making, and being their art, they become indispensable, rather than simply virtuous, or bored or delinquent or depressed.
We get so worried about, and expended in, a means to improve or to prove. If we focus on authentic art, as opposed to prescribed learning, the proving will not longer be an issue. We’ll wonder what all the fuss was. The kids already wonder. The art, the sharing of that art, because you can’t not, is its own reward.
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Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone.
Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.
It is for this reason that all societies have battled with the incorrigible disturber of the peace — the artist. …And it is absolutely inevitable that when a tradition has been evolved, whatever the tradition is, the people, in general, will suppose it to have existed from before the beginning of time and will be most unwilling and indeed unable to conceive of any changes in it. They do not know how they will live without those traditions that have given them their identity. Their reaction, when it is suggested that they can or that they must, is panic… And a higher level of consciousness among the people is the only hope we have, now or in the future, of minimizing human damage.
In a sentiment that Jeanette Winterson would come to echo decades later — “Art … says, don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself.”
The artist is distinguished from all other responsible actors in society — the politicians, legislators, educators, and scientists — by the fact that he is his own test tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of the human being.
Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best,
what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.