In an era when flexibility and tolerance are exalted,
there are still issues that demand immovability.
Holding firmly to tenets of faith and persuasions of the heart calls for tenacity.
When hope, safety, or morality are threatened, tenacity is indeed a virtue.
Niki Anderson, What my Cat has Taught me about Life
To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.
I don’t know who wrote those words but they are so true. For most of my life the biggest part of my reluctance to create art or once created keep it hidden was that it (and I) was “wrong” or unacceptable or undefinable or not worthy of notice. It didn’t help when I would show my art – in whatever form it took at the time – to other people and they would say something along the lines of “I don’t get it.” Of course, I have said that about art as well.
What does the statement, “I don’t get it” really mean anyway? Is it necessary for me or anyone else to “get it?” Isn’t the act of creating the art worth something whether it is meaningless to me or not? I don’t know. That really isn’t my focus here because ultimately, art is subjective, or to quote an age old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
My focus rather, is on how my fear of being wrong stifled my creative drive. I have always created art and when I feared it was unacceptable, I created acceptable art. Sometimes I feel as if I wasted half of my life being afraid. It is easy for me to feel that way because of my morose brain.
What helped me get beyond that fear were two things: God and age. As I’ve grown older I slowly began not to care about what other people thought, especially regarding my art. The old dragon still hangs about but I remind myself each day to ignore his snorts of derision and contemptuous laughter. I remind myself that God created me as I am – creative streak and all – and it is my responsibility as a child of God to use the gift He gave me.
Sometimes my work is plain and simple; other times it is a mystery even to me. But those mysterious works of art are expressions of my inner self and I need to honor that self, not ignore her. So, if I stand at my work table or in a museum or gallery and look at the art before me and wonder, “I don’t get it” – maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe the work is understood only by the subconscious me.
Regardless, I need not fear creating art of any kind. It matters not what the world thinks. It only matters what I think and what I think God thinks (after all, who really knows the mind of God?).
To be one’s self and unafraid whether right or wrong,
is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.
It is not easy to be one’s self and be unafraid. As children we are taught to conform to society. Our parents teach us, our school systems insist upon it, our friends intimidate us into it. In almost all of dystopian novels written for young adults the main theme is conformity and a desperate attempt by youth to rebel against it.
Is it any wonder that as adults we find it difficult to be our true selves? When one of my nephews was younger and in elementary school he wanted to have blue hair. My sister dyed his hair bright cerulean blue. (The year before that he wanted and got white-blond hair.)My mom was appropriately shocked; I loved it; I wished I had his freedom to be who he wanted to be. The school he went to tolerated it and I wondered if that was because the principal and teachers were well familiar with my sister because she was always advocating for her sons. She was one of those parents who was involved in their schooling and had gone toe-to-toe with the principal on more than one occasion. So it also makes me wonder that if she were more of a push-over the school would have strongly encouraged her to change his hair back to a “normal” color.
Unfortunately as he entered middle and high school, the pressure to conform to society was greater and he abandoned his desire to stand out creatively. This led to involvement in gangs which is also a way to stand out but in a far less creative manner. Now as a young 20-year-old, he is settling back into his creative self expression.
But why was it necessary for him to go through all those issues from peers, society and school? I am also reminded of one of my favorite movies – Auntie Mame – the one with Rosalind Russell. Auntie Mame sent her young nephew to a “progressive school” to the shock of the boy’s financial guardian. He ultimately put young Patrick into an “acceptable” school where he grew up to be a stodgy- old / young white man who associated himself with bigots and racists. Thankfully, those early years did have a lasting impact on him and he abandoned those awful ideas and people.
So again, back to being true to oneself. If I allow society to determine who and what I am I will be miserable indeed. If I allow my family to determine who and what I am I will be doubly miserable. My only salvation, my only happiness and my only peace of mind and heart will be if I choose for myself who and what I am. And only through God will I be able to accomplish this. It is God who makes all things possible – including the freedom to be myself. All I need do is to give myself over to the possibility of that freedom and let go of the restraints placed on me by various and sundry persons. In finding myself, I will find the Peace of God and the Joy of Living.