This is such a sad time.
The level of cruelty and blind-attack going on in our country holds so much weight that I have had to check out for days at a time. I’ve been avoiding writing a blog post because I do not want to be one more voice pointing out that things are really bad. There are plenty of people who can say it with a lot more insight than I can. I want to write about anything else…but it is all that I can think about.
It is the first time in my life that I have honestly understood and needed the power and presence of art. I have to admit that it is something that I frequently doubt. And art is my life. It’s one of the most important things to me, but there are so many days where I feel like it is so much resource and effort and for what? I doubt that it has a real context and value in American society. There must be a moment where we admit that our culture does not value this endeavor.
But here I am in the midst of despair. And with an intensity, I am craving to hear from artists in the way that I crave sleep and crave to eat. It is happening in a way that I never have experienced before. I need art now. The certainty of conviction everywhere and the lies and the judgements and the attacks are morphing our culture into something ugly and without love. It is only the voice of the artist that can remind me of the grey-ness of being human and that certainty is stupidity. To be an artist is to be asking a question. To be an artist is to expose ones own ugly and beautiful imperfection and bond us all together in the shared experience of being human, and fallible. When it is dark, art can lead us to God.
I went to see the concerts of two of my favorite comedians: Amy Schumer and Tig Notaro. I wanted them to shift my focus, to see all of this in a new way where I could imagine hope. And I wanted to laugh. It was conspicuous that both women chose not to talk at all about politics, possibly for different reasons, but my imagination is that they are in the same place that I am and what is there to possibly say? It’s not funny. There was even a moment in Amy Schumer’s concert where her mind seemed to wander off as if she were just discovering something and then just stopped talking for a moment before realizing she was still onstage. She quickly grabbed the half-drunk bottle of wine from the stool next to her and cheers’ed us, “Alright Austin!!” Both concerts were amazing and surprising and funny…and both concerts were marked by a haze of sadness. There was a slower pace, a dimming of confidence maybe. I was bolstered not by how they pulled me out of this, but how they sat with me in it.
I’m going to the theater to see every movie I can. To sit in the dark expanse and be surrounded by the scale and immersiveness of someone’s fantasy and vision. I’m binge watching every brilliant and semi-brilliant t.v. show I can. I’m even going to see The Nutcracker.
I sat for about an hour with a book of Edward Hopper paintings and imagined the world my grandparents lived in. A world where civility reigned for better or for worse. The simplicity and the wide open spaces. The slowness and the thoughtfulness.
Art is a symbol of our freedom. A society that values art values the ability of the individual to claim their own perspective and to not be bullied into dogma or propaganda. It acknowledges that our culture can be examined, made better. It shows us that life is not one color, it is all the colors.
And never have I been more thankful for my own art. Perhaps the irony of creation is that it does the opposite of providing me an escape. It gives me an opportunity to dive further into what is painful. Tear it open. Be burned in its fires…and then through the trial of process, discover some meaning, or at least understanding…emerging with the knowledge that life matters and our experience matters. There is poetry in all of it.