Posts Tagged ‘Artist’

glenn-gould1Photo Credit:  toomanynotes.org

      I didn’t even get to know you.  That’s because you died while I was in high school.  I didn’t even know you existed then.    You died a year after a boy I crushed on died. I never had a chance to tell him though; his time ran out first.   He was only 17.   He drove me to school for a year, but he had a problem.  And then life got way ahead of him at too young of an age.  More responsibilities than his young mind was ready for.  And depression, the black hole of the soul drives a person to do what they didn’t think they could do.  Perhaps you generate self-destruction, but perhaps for some, in their wake, you leave crumbs from your table for the rest of us–shiny diamonds of pure unadulterated genius.  And collectively we all grieve for you, even longer than had you lived.

Maybe that’s where it started.  This incredible empathy for genius, especially the quiet souls who tread the earth with a pervasive sadness.  For me, they stand out like neon in a black and white photo.  You know– the invisible ones you see feeding the ducks at the park on a winter’s day or having an argument with no one in particular at the bus stop.  Or maybe it’s the one frantically journaling (what?) behind a smoky haze in a cacophony of chatty coffee bugs at an outdoor café, or the painter who couldn’t straighten up his back because he was too busy painting the world’s most beautiful ceiling, and would’ve finished the sky, had there only been enough time.

The artists—you know the ones who cut off their ears for love, whose fear of germs or fear of being real, or honest, or perhaps fear of madness itself keep them from the love they were designed for.  But of course, how could they be anything but genius?  The heart must exert its life force into something, after all.

Yes, I found this picture of you in 2007 in the back of a Time Magazine (or maybe it was Newsweek).  I tucked it in a safe place all these years.  THOSE EYES!  I thought.  When I first saw you, you had me at look.  The elbow, haphazardly aloof resting on what you know only your round-curled fingers have the right to touch, or in your case tap and roll.  Sometimes when I get blue, I’ll pull out this picture of you and think, why am I drawn to you?  I don’t know you.  You’re a ghost.    

I’m almost the age now you were when you passed.  I lived invincible, unaware then while you lay dying that someday I would be drawn to you decades forth.   I don’t have the demons you did, nor do I want them if that’s what’s necessary to deepen my experience as an artist.

But a funny thing happened.   A tragic thing actually.  This thing called life with all its mystery, and majesty, and sadness, and joy.  Hard things and beautiful things, things we think we can’t endure, and they keep happening, wave upon wave.

And then I think I get it; or maybe I just perceive I do.  Maybe we leave messages for those in the future with our musical notes and sounds, our voices, our pictures, our words, our paintings, our constructions, perhaps as a harbinger, or maybe a love note that testifies and reminds us:  live, live, live.  Breathe life.  In.  Out.  Live full; live well.   

Yes, I probably would’ve loved you had I known you.    And if these words for some reason extend beyond cyberspace and into eternal space, maybe you’ll finally know not just me, but many like me, and especially those who actually knew you, loved you too.

      All that you can’t leave behind.  Except that we do.

And as we someday walk into the light, I feel certain we’ll hear your music too.

And love is not the easy thing…
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind….Walk On” – U2

A fascinating look at Glenn Gould — Genius Within

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The hardest part of pursuing life as an artist is certainly focus.  We feel as if we were born to create and it’s always imperative to get it done when inspiration hits.  Sigh–it’s the day job that gets in the way sometimes.  So how do you endure until the wee hours after midnight to pursue your craft?

Simply put, you wait.  You have to focus on the task at hand, the same way you do when you’re painting the next masterpiece or composing a new song.  You already know spending “eight to ten in the pen” (hours in the cubicle) has a buzz-killing effect on inspiration.  Wait long enough, and you’ll be completely blocked once you finally have free time to create.  I’ve done that.  Sit down at the computer.  Type the word, “The”.  Yep, on some nights that’s all she wrote—quite literally.

On a beautiful day, it feels unbearable knowing mere yards away from your place of enslavement employment,  life is happening all around you!  Cars honk, buses and taxis buzz by, and pretty people are sipping lattes and eating attractive food at nearby cafes while you furiously attempt to meet deadlines imposed by others.  Wealthy execs are swinging the club on the greens during a working lunch, and others are sipping chardonnay while eating their tuna nicoise salads with friends before their redecorating appointment.   Playgrounds are a buzz with summer activity with moms and dads that are spending the day with them!

I just want to live!  If only I could live you think!  There has to be more than this in life!  You quickly remind yourself of the bills that demand you stay put, and the disaster that would ensue if you suddenly said, “take this job and…..”   Well you know the rest.

Moments like this call for super human mental strength!  They call for:

Sitzfleisch!

Sitzfleisch is German and means both these things simultaneously:

  1.  A person’s buttocks
  2. The ability to endure or persist at a task, to sit through or tolerate something boring.

Another way of saying it is, “Sit your butt down and get it done.”  Why do I hear the sound of a teacher’s voice in my head as I write this?

I know.  Work life can sap the life right out of you sometimes.  I’m trying these days to persist at writing–something I hope to eventually do professionally .  Right now is the hardest part.  This is the time that the discipline of practice and patience to persevere when you’d rather be doing other things is required.

See most of life is like this.  We’re over here wishing we were somewhere out there. 

Ain’t happening.  Nope.  We’re called to suck it up and deal. 

I have a favorite bible verse related to patience:

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  Psalm 40:1

This sentiment is nailed perfectly in the U2 song “40”.  How long, Lord?  How long?

How long must we endure a long day at a job that’s well…..ho-hum, but it pays the bills?

How long do we put up with an unbearable situation or injustice?

How long do we live not in “our truth” but in “others’ expectations of us?”

God may appear silent, but that doesn’t mean He’s unaware.  I’ve never known the answer to “How long?”  I only know the response is to be patient and endure at the task at hand.

  • Finish the job you are doing right here, right now, first!
  • Try and endure the hard thing that feels like it may swallow you with grace and prayer as you wait.

Being patient requires we release control of the situation.  Enduring our task demands that we cross the finish line.  We don’t quit or give up when our circumstances or our feelings seem hopeless.  We trust as the answers are still fleshing themselves out.

God rewards our faith and our patience.   Stand firm.  Have faith.  Finish what you start.      Your day will come.  Until then…..sitzfleisch!!

 

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Try to find your deepest issue in every confusion and abide by that.  D.H. Lawrence

 I have such a fickle muse.  This muse who always shows up uninvited when I’m busy working on anything in real life other than writing, and who arrives fashionably late or sometimes not at all when I most desperately need her.    She is like the invisible friend one has in childhood, but you get teased by older siblings if seen talking to her.

She is fleeting.  She rides the wind currents of air and rolls in and out with the changing of the tide.   She’s entirely unpredictable and unreliable, and yet I love her so.  I never know if this is the day she’ll show up.  If I could contain her, I would trap her so she would stay with me just a little while longer and whisper those things she wants only me to know, and even less she allows me to share.

She laughs at me when I’m frustrated, and sits oddly still, giving me the silent treatment, when I tell her I have all the time of the world to spend with her for now.  When I perceive pressure and deadlines, she is always out partying no doubt.

My muse, yes, he is a strange one.  Constantly changing form, and swirling all around me.   I carry a secret happiness knowing only I can see him sometimes.   I smile during inappropriate moments and places because he tells me things he doesn’t share with anyone else.  And then he says the magic three words, every writer’s heart longs to hear:

Write this down.

On nights when all is right in my world, the tasks of the day are done, and I’m about to shut my eyes for what will surely be a rare night of deep sleep, he hovers just inches over my freshly closed eyes.  I can barely feel the fluttering of him, but still I do.  WAKE UP!  Did you know about this?  What are you going to do with this news?    No, I think, not now.  I don’t need you right now.  Yes, my fickle muse is sometimes an annoying little pest.

If I’m in the shower, I sometimes can faintly hear him singing.  But if I try to sing with him, he quickly vanishes.    Sometimes he’ll write my memoirs when I’m not looking, and when I find them and read them, I’ll shriek, “Hey!  That’s not TRUE!” and then I compose myself, because when I try to recall the past, sometimes, I’m not sure.

Like a cat, he sometimes taps across my keyboard leaving a trail of misspelled words, misplaced and excess punctuation.   The ultimate revisionist, he sometimes substitutes made up words for real ones.  He’s a prankster too.  Sometimes, when feeling particularly devilish, I’ll be nearly finished writing a post, a page, or an outline, and I will hit “save” as he simultaneously deletes what was surely my best work.  Finito!

She certainly contributes to a mild case of crazy.  Sometimes she’ll brighten the room with such a huge flash of inspiration.  I’ll get two or three sentences written.  Amazing!  I think to myself.  Then, faster than the flash of words she just gave me, she runs off with a band of her bohemian friends, leaving me stranded for days without capability of follow through.  I look back and don’t even know what we were talking about in the first place.

Sometimes when life is unbelievably complicated, and writing feels like a chore with no joy, she’s suddenly sitting beside me, my biggest cheerleader.  You can do this, you know she whispers.  I always knew you would, how come you didn’t?  She sees my tears I cry in secret, and carries them to painters who need vibrant water to mix with their duller colors.

My muse, I love him so.   When I feel lost and alone, he’ll stop and sit beside me when I pray.  I sense a calmness just knowing he is there.   When I’m out and about mixing with all the people of the world, he always leaves me be, because he knows that I know deep down, I am fine without him.

Together we form words ex nihilo!  We create beauty alla prima!  After the creation is finished, he leaves.    I know why.  I’m not his only one.

Yes, she leaves me, not because she’s selfish, but because she’s generous.   See, she has to help the other artists too.  There are poets also struggling to find the perfect word, painters who go to the ends of the earth searching for the truest blue, the ballerina who strives for the perfect grand battement, the singer who aches for the melody that will complement the lyrics, or the pianist who seeks to arrange a composition to perfection.    My muse is not faithful to me, but is full of faith in me, and for that I’m grateful.

Yes, sometimes I see the calling card of my muse in others too.  It’s the secret glance of other artists.  It’s the question within a question that they ask.  Or it’s the connection one’s soul has when meeting another like-minded person.   You see, a muse always leaves their mark.  You know it; the bumper sticker that states “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”.   That’s the reaction many a muse has caused.

Tempus Fugit!  Our time together is finished.  I leave here, only to set foot out into the world, searching, always longing to find my muse, and bring her safely home.

Suggested Listening:  Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EIeUlvHAiM