Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moment of the Artist

I had a moment of the artist last night.

My current life has so little to do with art on a daily basis that to describe to someone that 15-20 years ago that music, that drama, that imagination itself was such an integral part of my life would be to have them look at me and think I was crazy, or perhaps confused, or possibly even an alien replacement for the real Toirdhealbheach Beucail.

How did this happen? Like everything, slowly of course. One begins to choose one's life based on sensibilities and common sense - before you know it, music and drama and writing and imagination are getting forced out not so much by the job itself but by the career around it: the commute, the travel, the thoughts from work that dominate one's mind ("Can I validate that process? Should I do so?").

We also allow circumstances to dictate how and when we use our talents - if it's a gift or skill, others will put it into slot A based on their perceived needs: " That's where it goes. We really don't use your talents in any of other slots. Trust me - it's really for the best of everyone."

We also allow ourselves to kill our own art. We see those make their living as artists or musicians, we see those coming behind us who are far more skilled than we could ever hope to be - and suddenly we feel those gifts and talents are no longer as useful ("After all, X is really quite the better musician than I"). We forget that the root word of amateur is the Latin word amator, literally a lover. We would never hurt or injure those we love because they are less than excellent or skilled or perfect - yet we happily lay waste to our own talents and skills for the very same reason, forgetting that sometimes to love a thing is enough of a reason to do it.

And so, slowly, week by week and year by year, we stop to do those things we did purely for the pleasure of doing them because they do not relate to our "CAREER" (in big, very important letters), do not reach the level of expertise that would win the adulation of others, or simply are seen as "selfish" (because in the end, art in any form is about mastery of a form or even self, and is very much an individual pursuit, although it may be conducted in a group) because they take time away from other things or people.

But there come those moments - at the first notes of a song, the pluck of a string, the roar of an audience - when you remember: you remember the joy of doing, of performing or creating, of how doing these things made you more not less, of how other things were perhaps not as good but you were happy because of what you did and how it integrated into your life.

You remember what you were capable of and how being an artist made you more alive.

A very wise man once said that so long as we keeping trying, we have never really ceased the activity or failed in it. It is only when we stop trying that we die - as people, or as artists.

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