“Art’s task is to save the soul of mankind. Anything less is a dithering while Rome burns, because if the artists — who are self selected to journey into the Other — cannot find the way, then the Way cannot be found.”
— Terence McKenna
“Never forget that you are a man and therefore you must bleed for the goal of humanity. Listen, you are still too juvenile for your age. You should get older, the years are dwindling and yet your work has not been accomplished. Practice solitude assiduously without grumbling so that everything will in time become ready. You should not die unfulfilled. Your years are numbered and many years are still needed for your fulfillment. You should become serious and your work sink heavy as iron into the ground of mankind. Let go of too much science. There lies the way that is not the way. Your way goes toward the depths, toward the rarest and deepest”.
-– Carl Gustav JUNG
Art draws your attention to things we see and feel but are usually too busy to contemplate. The artist weds technique and attention to subtleties in order to study reality so we can see it more clearly. When we create, we hope to connect more strongly with the feeling of being alive.
Jung’s admonitions to grow up and grow down into life so you can accomplish your mission may sound uncharacteristically stern, but I think it applies to the whole culture we live in. We have a lot of help if we just want to distract ourselves but not much help to deepen ourselves. Choosing to create any kind of art requires more than talent and technique. It requires vision and questioning. The world can’t be helped by shallow people. Creating anything requires intense focus on elements both large and small.
The act of imagining stirs up deeper layers of the mind, bringing forth unexpected insights and beauties we didn’t know we had in us. We get an unexpected glimpse of ourselves in the act and the world gets a new way of seeing something.
We need to create in order to keep our sensibilities alive. It’s a practice that keeps us attuned to ourselves and to the world at the same time. And the world needs minds that create new ways of seeing. In a world that rushes past the ever present miracle as it looks for profit, anyone who stops to contemplate existence looks like a fool.
So, be a fool. The world could use more inspired fools, in my opinion. It has enough smart people who are working to get ahead. (Where is “ahead,” anyway?)
Starting a creative project activates inner forces that want to speak. Those hidden energies have a way of perceiving that goes beyond who we think we are. The world needs more people in touch with themselves that way. Beauty and meaning are looking for ways to get into the world. Creative people offer that way.
Everybody has doubts they’ll be able to pull it off when they start. Making something worthy come out of yourself is a scary project. And it goes without saying, sometimes you will fail. Often, in fact. That’s to be accepted as part of the process.
Quitting because you think you might fail is fatal, though. You just have to continue anyway. There are a million reasons to quit provided by society. You won’t necessarily receive any encouragement either. You need to insist upon being your best self. If that means being a writer or an artist, you are consciously choosing to nurture your deeper self.
If a more substantial life calls to you, creating beauty out of your own inner resources is a work worth having.