I read about an artist battling illness. She talked about the desire to make something important. She only has the energy, at present, to work on small things–sketches, old half-completed projects, drawings and plans, but she feels a real need to work on something big, something she feels is important. I know she will, and I also know that urge. I want to make something like I create in my dreams. Something pure and glowing and perfectly emotionally honest. And I don’t. I write a line or two, and I think about it on my walks, but I’m not making much right now. And I’m not facing the obstacles she is, I’m just facing discouragement and February doldrums, which always hit me harder than they should. I have no excuse, really.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating something important. Been thinking about what it means to create, and how we define important. During the pandemic our definition of “essential” underwent constant revision, and I think the revision is ongoing. The goal posts are constantly moving and shifting on our definition of things we feel we need, jobs we hold valuable, activities we cannot live without.
And now Russia has invaded Ukraine. Sadly it’s not the only place in the world where war, aggression, and violence are driving people out of their homes, breaking up families, ending lives–it’s just the one we’re talking the most about right now. All over the world people are worried about keeping their families warm and fed through the winter. Worried about their homes being destroyed, their loved ones killed. I think about people who don’t have my comfortable life. Who don’t have the luxuries that I’ve come to consider necessities – hot water, electricity, my choice of pretty much any food I can think of. I think about refugees and fugitives – people driven out of their homes by war or occupation. In my own life, I’ve come to realize that it’s the small, every-day things that ultimately make me happy or anxious or disgruntled. What does that look like when your very home, every aspect of your “every day” is unsettled and unstable?
Years ago when we lost power for ten days after a storm, and recently during the pandemic, I found myself so undone by … what? Anxiety? Discomfort? … that I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything, large or small. I could only feel anxious about when we’d get our power back, or about the illness spreading through the world. I couldn’t think clearly about the bigger political picture. I couldn’t think about elections or political tensions or voting rights. It made me wonder about times and places when the bigger political situation causes stressful personal circumstances. Can you find enough strength and hope to change the situation when you’re brought down by anxiety about your next meal, or when you don’t have a safe, warm home, and you’re deep in unforgiving winter? Can you even think about creating something big and emotionally honest and important? What would it look like to create what is in your dreams, at a time like that?
But I think maybe to have a dream, of the nighttime kind or the daytime kind, is to create something important. Certainly to fight against invasion from a dictatorship is to create something important. To find food and shelter for your family is to create something important. Maybe to wake up in the morning and appreciate the slant of hopeful light on your way to your essential work, (and as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence,”) is to create something important.
Though we might always not have the time or energy to create, at times of crisis perhaps art is more important than ever. As Warcheerah Kilima of the ANEW Artists Alliance wisely says, “If all the people in the world did art, a lot of the problems would be solved.”
My wish right now is for peace, for everyone to have the peace, safety, and health to create whatever they feel compelled to make, whatever they deem important. And I also believe with all my heart that if you’re sick or struggling or in a war-torn state, or even if you’re just a human struggling to understand what that even means with the world the way it is and time passing so quickly, I honestly believe that just to get out of bed in the morning, to take care of the ones you love, to take care of people you don’t know, to go through a day finding beauty and trying to be kind, that is creating something important.
Bit of a slim issue this month, but it’s been a short and stressful month. Sharing art and music and passion seems important to me right now, on some level, and I have so many things just on the verge–next month will be a rich garden of art.
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