Artmaking Is Spiritual

Image by Stephen Harry

…what I am talking about is the choice that we can make, to move deeper into things, or simply to live worthily, maintain your attitudes, hold your position, even die bravely, but not to see what might have been seen. Not to grasp what might have been grasped. And that is a choice, for us all, whether in poetry or in life.

Our country has many truths, but certainly one of them has to be that this was never a democracy. That this was a hope of democracy, an enormous hope for true democracy, and that it failed many people from the outset and it’s failing more people now.

I think that more and more people feel uncared for, feel that their lives are not only unvalued, but meaningless. Feel that though they may care for their lives, no one else will. Feel that the only way that they can protect their survival and their interests is by the gun. I’m afraid that many people feel an enormous desperation which plays into the propaganda of hate.

I think that poetry speaks beyond that, to something different. And that’s why it can bring those parts of us together, that are both in dread, and which have the surviving sense of a possible happiness, and a possible collectivity, a possible community, a loss of isolation.”

— Adrienne Rich

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Centuries of individualism and competition have brought about tremendous destruction and alienation. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another, as children of the same mother. We need more than new technology to protect the planet. We need real community and co-operation.

Falling in Love with Mother Earth, Thich Nhat Hanh

Art making is more than a path of beauty, it’s also a path of meaning. Artists are subject to large and small lightning strikes of insight into the nature of existence. Deep seeing is more than physical, it’s also spiritual. For me, it’s a more soulful practice than sitting in church being told how to be a better person.

My childhood experience of church was extremely uninspiring, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It was a small town Protestant church that left a lot to be desired in the areas of joy and inspiration. Art took my hand and led me to a sense of connection with nature. Inspired play, insightful reflection and discovery of new insights became my path. Rote answers to the eternal questions don’t satisfy or motivate me.

Artists live on at least two levels, the level of the world and the level of the Soul. The two may never touch, but it’s possible to shuttle back and forth between the two. If the artist can touch and speak from that deeper, more courageous self and creates something out of that, the world benefits.

In that way, the artist is a bit of a shaman. It’s an artist/poet’s job to perceive more deeply and offer those perceptions to the world. It’s a work that requires depth of perception arrived at through simultaneous practice of creation and meditation. It’s worth doing even if the world won’t pay you to do it.

The world is in trouble precisely because it lives too much on the level of immediate survival without a sense of connection or responsibility to the river of life we are born into. The artist is occupied with addressing a common blindness to beauty and meaning even in themselves. They don’t start out as avatars of insight. They make art as a meditation practice, learning as they go.

Touching the essence of things is ineffable. It’s very difficult, maybe impossible to communicate, but the world is in sore need of reminders that there is something beyond the quotidian that we secretly long for. Artists and poets are working in that workshop, for their own benefit and for the well-being of the human community.

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