Monday, September 14, 2009

I AM is an Artist (and so can You!)

Once upon a time there was an artist, and his name was G... um, G...., his name was G...

Well, never mind. Let's just say his name was "The Artist", and although he was neither a man nor a woman, he came to be known as sort of mannish by the people who insisted on naming everything. Now, I know they're pretty much lame-donkeys, but I am going to take the path of least resistance and humor them for pronoun usage.

After all, The Artist as an entity is a seemingly insane mystery, so there really isn't too much point in arguing about what, exactly, he was. It will be a whole heckuvah lot easier to skip that and intuit what he seems to be by looking at what The Artist did, and how he did it.

So... Once upon a time there was an artist - The Artist. He was called "The Artist" because he was not constrained to live in the same space-time continuum as the artists we are familiar with. As everyone knows, time and space are functions of a State of Being experienced by people, and are irrelevant concepts for non-people things like, say, really tiny fast niblets like light particles. It is my opinion that this State of Being we people experience is beautiful and intensely creative, so I tend to believe that it was made by someone like The Artist, who existed in a way that transcended my own State of Being.

That's not a provable opinion, though, so I won't spend too much time on it. Instead, I will talk about what I think is super important - that The Artist was making stuff. How, I don't know. I have a pretty good idea of why, though. I think The Artist was making stuff because it was fun. He liked doing it, so he went all-out. We don't know exactly what he was making, we just know that he was always making it, having fun. He made rules and then broke them. He made stuff and then played with it. He made blobs of stuff and things that shone and others that didn't and to you and I it would seem that he was just this mad inventor tossing bits of matter here and there, because the rhyme of it all was beyond anything anyone but The Artist could comprehend.

Once upon a time, The Artist said to himselves (because he's a mystery and doesn't exactly conform to our understanding of identity), "That was fun making stuff and all, but lets make stuff that's alive and can re-create, within a certain context. Let's let it have certain capacities, and let's just make them up as we go along."

And that is just what he did.

Having made life and things like rules and space and places and time, he decided to make living people, so that they could be artists, too. The Artist made Ways of Being for them - behaviors and patterns that would allow them to always have fun making good stuff. This was necessary, because the artists he made lived inside a universe he had already made, and it had rules. He had to make a way for the artists to live in harmony with those rules. He kept these rules loosely defined, though, so that they'd have lots of room to maneuver as they played. The Artist loved playing, and thought it would be cool to watch these people play, and to play with them.

The little artist-people had a lot of fun playing and re-creating, but they also thought they ought to be able to re-define the basic rules. I am not sure exactly why they did this, or why The Artist felt it necessary to make them able to do so - I think it may have had something to do with the importance The Artist placed in people having free will so that they could be creative.

Nevertheless, that is what they did, and although this may have added a lot to the sorrow of the beautiful, creative universe they were in, they still kept playing and creating and having fun, as did The Artist who had made them. As time went on, it became obvious that some of the things they were creating came out of their desire to write their own rules. These things were ugly, and people got hurt. Tears came into the world, along with selfishness, pride, and fear. It was bad art, and it was wrong.

Oddly enough, The Artist was still smiling and having fun. This does not make sense to me, but it still seems to be true. Often the most true things make very little sense for a very long time. Until, sometimes, they seem to work out. This is because of another pattern that started to show up - another thing that became obvious over time was that this smiling, fun-loving Artist was still making stuff. Only now, he was incorporating all the stuff the little artist-people were making - the good, the bad, and the ugly. In so doing, he was making the ugliness beautiful.

Again, it is important to remember that very little of this makes any sense. As I sit here and try to make this all fit into my little artist mind, I find that more often than not I have to do violence to reality: I shave off bits I don't like and ignore bits that just won't fit into the work that I am making, the small work of art I contribute with my life to the grander piece. Despite all this, there is a feeling I get that something indescribably wonderful and mysterious is being made.

So...

Once upon a time, from the very beginning, The Artist was interacting with the people-artists. This did not mean that he was grabbing their brushes and taking over their work - lots of times he didn't even let them know he was there - but The Artist was playing alongside them and with them. I am almost certain of this, and I think it is awesome. It is just hard to see sometimes, because we are made to play and create best within certain parameters, and when we push outside of them something happens to us on a deep level. The eyes and ears of our souls get plugged up and (for a while, at least) we are blind and deaf.

The Artist knew this (he made us like this, for crying out loud), and wanted to make it easier for us to find the way. So he communicated. That is what artists do, really... they communicate. The Artist communicated brilliantly, in all ways at all times to all people. He also started to weave some blatantly obvious strands into the overall pattern of the infinitely complicated and beautiful tapestry he was making.

One of the strands that I think is really important had to do with a nomadic group of rustics wandering around in the desert. The Artist started to talk to them, to point them towards a way of living that enabled them to do good work, to create with their lives a more beautiful form of art.

They were very, very normal people, so most of the time they weren't interested in what The Artist had to say, but he loved them like only a Maker can, so he just kept re-working and re-working the material, sending them artists who did their best to get the people to understand what it would take for them to make the best artwork.

These little artist-prophets reminded them that they needed to care for the poor and the oppressed and the beaten-down, to be selfless and giving at all times, and to enjoy the awesome awesomeness of everything. The little artists did not generally like this. They ignored these speakers and artists and leaders sent by The Artist, or killed them. They preferred to do their own thing - to follow their own course and to control their own pursuit of happiness. They began to re-invent the world in their own image, and to re-envision The Artist as something they could control. This did not work (duh), and pain and suffering increased exponentially. Although this was a direct result of the way The Artist had set things up, and seemed SO obvious, The Artist did not give up. He just kept making. He kept tweaking things, even though it didn't really work - in the sense that things did not get fixed.

This gives us an important clue into what kind of artist The Artist was - he was not one of those artists who fixate on end results. Instead, he just sort of enjoyed the process. How he could enjoy something as frustrating and painful as this is beyond me, but I guess that's The Artist for you.

Anyways, there came a time when The Artist figured that his masterpiece required him to focus some of his more obvious attention elsewhere, which is why he stopped sending as many really vocal little artists to the nomads - who by this time had settled, expanded into a group called the Jews, and fallen victim to their own bad work. A lot of people call this time "the four hundred years of prophetic silence".

The truth is, though, that The Artist never stopped playing around and making stuff. One of the places he moved his more blatant creative action to was Greece. Right at the beginning of those four hundred years of "silence" Greek culture inexplicably exploded as the little artists there "somehow" began to make a great many beautiful things. The culture expanded in influence and scope, and even though a lot of bad work was done, the astronomical amount of good work obviously portended some sort of great thing.

That great thing, apparently, was the Roman Empire, which absorbed the Greek culture and expanded it and took over absolutely everybody, including that group of formerly-nomadic Jews. All this set the stage for an even greater thing, because The Artist put on a person-skin and part of himself became one of the little artists. I don't know how he did it, or even entirely why, but The Artist actually subjected himself to his own rules. He entered his masterpiece at the level of one of the little artists and walked around monkeying with the rules, doing backwards things and showing them what it could mean for their art if they were to play and create in the manner they'd been designed for.

Some of them listened - a little - but mostly they just liked the spectacle he presented and figured that if they could harness his power they'd be able to go back to doing things their own way - only with more power. This was not in The Artist's plan. He knew that if they followed that course they'd just do more damage, and he kept telling them this until they did what they always did to those with the audacity to hang out with losers and tell the truth - they killed him.

Which, I guess, is why it's so cool that The Artist became a loser, and lost. He showed me that it is OK for me to be a loser. He wasn't done yet, though. He came back as a little artist person for a little while longer - to show the amazing, death-defying mystery of the masterwork that was being created. Then he went away again, leaving behind the intangible spirit of himself and what he did to show the way: the spirit that freed captives, fed the hungry, and loved the unlovable. It was the spirit of Grace, and it was awesome.

You know what else was awesome? That the Roman culture I mentioned earlier provided a perfect opportunity for the spirit of Grace that The Artist brought (by living and dying as he did) to spread all over the world. People weaselled their way into it - so of course things got ugly and uglier - but that Grace-spirit flowed outward into the world nonetheless, serving the poor and the marginalized despite all the bad artists who tried to hijack the power of the Story and use it for their own nefarious ends.

Again, I don't really get this. I don't get why the idiots get to have power. I don't get why they get to pretend they're making something beautiful while they curb-stomp the very people their art should be lifting up. I do not understand why they are allowed to make bad, ugly art that takes away what little the downtrodden still have and leaves them with only tears. I don't get why they are allowed to spread lies about The Artist, pretending to do his bidding even as they live fat, ugly, comfortable lives, ignoring everything important that he really said. I don't get why they sometimes seem to do so much more damage than all the many people who have never heard of The Artist, or have only heard of a perverse caricature of him created by these same pitiable fools.

I don't get this, and it makes me angry and indignant and most of all very, very sad. Except when it doesn't. Sometimes, after I have made a particularly bad piece of art myself, I find myself being glad that they get away with it. When I ignore the hurt of someone who needs my help or increase the hurt of someone already in pain, I am really, really glad that these people don't seem to get what they deserve - because if everybody got what they deserved, where would I be?

I remember, then, that spirit of Grace. I remember the bigger story being told by the master storyteller, The Artist who is not only making the greatest work of art ever, he is that art. Oddly enough, it is only through my own failure and my own bad art that I remember what good art is. I remember that I can have a part in making it, and that in so doing I will give The Artist a little more to work with - or at least diminish by six or seven the number of tears that will fall between now and completion of the masterpiece.

Is this an answer? No - but art is not about answers. It is about process and communication. It is about Being and loving and making. When I pretend to have answers, to understand, to have contained in my mind the master plan of The Artist, it is then that I find myself making bad work.

This makes me sad... until I remember the spirit of Grace. I shrug, I smile, and I go back to playing.

3 comments:

  1. Tell me what you think. I painted "The Artist" as being a form of your soul and/or spirit. During my early years I pictured my soul as being let say X and my spirit as Y which left my body as being Z. I also considered that my soul was the child of our Heavenly Father and my spirit as the child of The Holy Spirit and my body as the child of Jesus.

    I better stop now before I get carried away with "IT" :)

    God Bless,

    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  2. Victor, whenever anyone asks me what I think, I try to remember to say "Not much", or at least, "Not much that counts".

    Your take is interesting and allows for further exploration of the subject. Whenever you start talking about "soul" and "spirit" you enter realms of mystery - areas about which I am trying hard not to have too many adamant opinions these days. Putting beliefs before behaviors is always destructive, but especially so when you start talking about incomprehensible mysteries.

    All that to say, if you are suggesting a spiritual-humanist reading that argues that we as individuals are all that the Artist is, then I have difficulty following you there, as I feel that I make a sucky "capital - A" Artist. If, however, you are just throwing me another angle of attack in the mad adventure of Meaning Exploration, then I thank you.

    Either way, I appreciate the insight and thought-provocation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Josh, I've recently started to care again about this Artist and the art that that he makes and that I can make too. I appreciate your take on all of it. Keep on thinking and writing since I don't really get to experience that pretty face of yours or the words that come out of them. Keep on keepin' on.

    ReplyDelete

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