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Painting by Andrea Kowach

Is it really true? Is it really like this?

“People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination. If you read, you can learn to think for yourself.”

. — Doris Lessing


“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”
— Ursula Le Guin

Why “practice” the piano? Why paint or write every day? My answer is that we have to remake ourselves every day. Vision and even love must be revived and exercised every day. The finished piece of art may be good, but it’s still necessary to start over again tomorrow. Learning to see is endless. The value of art is that it wakes us up. We have a tendency to live in a state of inattention. We assume all kinds of things that would prove false if we only looked with care.

The artist is a professional seer. Art is not about prowess or technique. All that becomes ego if it takes center stage. Yes, we must know the grammatical rules of our form. That’s basic, but then what is your subject? What revelation do you need to show us that will help us live better?

Art shows us the world. It gets us to stop and consider it, to notice things we passed over too quickly. Other human endeavors do that, science for example. Art has a way of joining insight with feeling. It goes beyond cognition.

If you want to create art, it’s because you want to be more deeply human and you want to experience life more intensely and intimately. It’s a lifelong process of deepening. The learning never stops. I think of Casals, who was asked why he still practiced at age ninety. He said he was still learning. He said he thought he was getting somewhere. That’s the spirit I’m talking about. When we stop growing, we’re finished as artists.

We live in a culture that thinks of art as something like decoration, that we don’t really need it. It may be nice to have but we can do without it. Anyone deciding to live by art has to know they will have a hard time feeding their children unless they’re lucky. Compromises will be made, almost certainly. Teaching the young and naïve is the fallback position.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how the values of the soul are so unimportant to us moderns. I’m reading here and there that we are now seeing that whole paradigm crash and burn. Politically, financially, and socially things are crashing down around our ears. Can we rebuild a kinder, more beautiful world? Maybe, if our hearts change, if our thinking changes, if our vision grows. Everybody is in a state of tension right now. Insomnia is rampant. People are keyed up, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re probably in for a wild ride in the next months and years.

Is a beautiful new world being born or is our planet soon to go dark?

Stay tuned.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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