Image for post
Image for post

“The ancient Irish had a saying: ‘You don’t give a man a weapon until you’ve taught him how to dance.’ In other words, a different kind of learning is required before someone can be truly trusted with social power and potent things like weapons. If a man does not know the wounds of his own soul, he can deny not just his own pain, but also be unmoved by the suffering of other people. More than that, he will tend to put his wound onto others. He may only be able to see the wound that secretly troubles him when he forcefully projects it into someone else, in forms of abuse or violence.

The tempering of the souls involved discovering what kind of anger each might carry and learning about the inner line where anger turned into blind rage. Becoming tempered also meant immersing in the sorrow of one’s life and thereby being in touch with the grief of the world.”

- Michael Meade

“You don’t become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by descending into the darkness where it begins. — C. G. Jung

I discovered who I was through art. At first my questions revolved around talent. Did I have it or not? But that’s not the value in learning to create art. The real discovery is deeper. It’s in finding out whether there is love or not in the practitioner, and how it is mixed with anger, for example.

Why anger? Because it has been suppressed or violated. It’s in the range of emotions that are awakened in the creative act. Over time, undiscovered things are brought forth into consciousness that may not even be personal. They could be deeper in the human experience.

Art helps us go under the surface of ourselves where stronger energy currents flow. If we connect to a real natural energy path, we may find the talent to create things with power and depth. We may discover and heal parts of ourselves we didn’t even suspect existed before we tried to reach into ourselves this way.

Art has healing powers. It has the ability to show us who we are. We are both humbled and empowered to live more fully. The human race without the arts is unthinkable. We would be diminished immeasurably.

Every culture treats its arts according to its vision of what has the most meaning in life. In Soviet Russia, artists are recruited to advertise the political system. In America, artists have the right to starve. In Europe, artists receive a stipend because they contribute to a highly valued culture.

Regardless, if you are a born artist you hardly have a choice in the matter. You will suffer the throes of creativity or you will suffer from not being able to create. Take your choice. I prefer to experience the challenges and defeats of creativity rather than pine for a creative life that remains out of reach for a lifetime. I can’t imagine anything worse.

My father longed to be a writer but made the mistake of having six children and not inheriting any money. My mother had those children but started painting again as soon as they got old enough to feed themselves.

I watched and took instruction. Still, it took me a long time to locate the energy pathways in myself. A deep love relationship proved essential for me to mature as an artist. Fortunately I didn’t forget to inherit some money, at least enough to get me through the years of learning my lessons and finding my voice. I was lucky there, but it took a lot longer than I thought it would. For me it was a slow process.

Being creative, being sensitive and talented is very common. The rare thing is persistence. The impediments are daunting, especially if you don’t have money or encouragement, especially if you come from a background inimical to art.

My father’s family was poor going back into the mists of time. He carried the burden of suspicion that art was unbecoming for a man to do. It was somehow effete, not a man’s work. Writing was a little better but it too was tainted.

Everyone has their unconsciously held ideas that obstruct artistic creation. That’s where the excavation begins. If you can’t get past that stage, it’s going to be hard to continue. There are lucky people who have none of that, who can just dive in and get on with it. Their problems are mainly technical, artistic.

Most of us, though, have to spend some time learning who we are at the deeper levels. Once we find our feet, we’ll have a lot to offer to beginners with the same issues.

We can encourage others because we can see a little farther down the road. It’s not a simple thing becoming a real artist. The main thing we can teach is that you have to keep going in spite of hell and high water.

You’re not just becoming an artist, you’re growing your humanity.

Written by

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store