Seattle, Washington, United States
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

new hope & old crazy

I sat down this week to do something I love and haven't done in a very long time. One of my best friends is an incredible musician, and, sometimes, I write him lyrics for this song or that. We meet in parks and put together words and chords and ideas. It always makes for a refreshing and suprising afternoon. I feel like I have less control over lyrics than I do over a poem; they move more fluidly and they jump out of bounds sometimes, which is beautiful.

After we finished writing the song, we sat around on the park table. He was plucking at chords and I was doodling on spare pieces of paper that hadn't been torn apart by blue ink and creative inspiration. I began with a dot, which grew into a line, which sprouted leaves and flowers, became a vine, and acquired a bird. This tumbled into roots and another vine. A tree grew up on the side. Roses populated the ground. Several shining diamonds hung suspended in the air. A strange current of lines snaked out from the tree.

I draw these abstract little gardens often. I doodle them on the sides of coffee cups, on pieces of paper, on cardboard, on my hands, on my friends' hands, and on my homework. Each garden is drawn with an emotion in mind and titled with a phrase that encapsulates that emotion. I added a dark cloud to the side of this garden, from which everything was springing. And then I titled it:

Growing a new kind of HOPE from an old kind of crazy.

I'd hardly even noticed I'd written it until my friend leaned over and read the phrase out-loud to himself. "I like that," he said. I looked up, confused. He pointed to the scrawled words in their messy little column next to the tree. So I read them again:

Growing a new kind of HOPE from an old kind of crazy.

And it all suddenly made sense. I build so much of my life around art: written, spoken, sung, visual. It is so much a part of who I am. I was raised in and around it. But, whereas my mother and I believe in art as self-expression of both the positive and negative, my father believes it is the duty of art to heal the culture from which it comes. While this is not necessarily my view, it is one I grew up with and agree with to some extent. I think healing art is, if not better, at least more responsible. Sharing our struggles together, sharing our successes together, reaching across lines and pulling at heart-strings of totally different kinds of people - these are the things that responsible art does. I am guilty of the occassional irresponsible piece of art, but I think that is okay as well.

But, ideally, the above bolded words represent what responsible art does. It takes us from a place of personal dysfunction, pain, stress, a tendency toward nervous breakdown - and it shows the world that they are not so small, they are not so insignificant.

We feel this, too.

It's so human to sit down and bare yourself, naked and raw, to a page or a lens or a canvas. That is natural. But sharing that? Unashamedly giving that to the world with a message of smallness, but grand hope? That is something quite different, entirely. It's more perfect that way; everyone is human when we treat ourselves and each other this way: with empathy, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, maybe some laughter, maybe a few tears. When we hold hands and paint with our friends, we are growing a new kind of hope from an old kind of crazy.

This is one of the reasons I love, no matter how caddy it is at times, the book Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert is on the list of people who inspire me, in fact. She is, like all of us, complicated - maybe more complicated than most, but her negatives are far outshone, in my mind, by her connectability, accountability, inner-strength, incredible honesty, and hope.

If we break without hope, we stay broken. But if we have a hand to hold, a painting to study, a book to read, a poem to love, a person to talk to - something that will tell us it is all alright, it will all be okay - we survive.

So, my call: artists everywhere, no matter your lives, no matter your medium. Do what you do, but do not get lost in the pain of living. People somewhere may rely on hope to just keep breathing, and you may be the only thing in the entire cosmos that's going to give it to them.

And to those who identify as non-artists: stop seeing yourself that way. How silly.

Life is ripe for the painting.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful. I love that you mentioned Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert since I am just irrationally obsessed with that book and her. I think you're one of the most phenomenal artists in the world because you not only can do amazing things yourself, you make everyone else want to find their own mediums too. It's so mind boggling to think that because so much art comes out of people being so "sensitive" and "tortured" and "full of pain" and just seeing the world for all it's "chaos and insanity" and all those things people say bahaha but what comes out of all of that, that even if it's supposed to be something that portrays the pain or the shit that's going on, that it is, just inherently by being something artistic, some expression of someone's psyche, it is always a weird way of expressing hope.
    Thank you for being you and inspiring so many thoughts about life and the universe.
    maybe this should be your mission statement;)
    love always, shreya

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