The artistic work of a life, or the life of an artist, is about the doing of the work, the going of the work — the writing of this essay, the singing of this song. The audience, the outcome, the success or failure of that work cannot be a consideration in the making of it or we are doomed. Doomed to rely on formulas, to pander to the invisible critic in our heads.
Art in all its forms is intimately connected with every aspect of all lives. We sing when people die. We dance when they get married. Even sports events and video games incorporate music, dance images, theater. The things I make are only my participation in that constant, unstoppable swirl of creation. This world is already beautiful and good. It’s just a question of where we choose to look.
I am learning to be more comfortable with uncertainty. I believe mercy hides everywhere in the world, waiting to swoop in and hold us. We cannot control much, but we can still live deep and meaningful lives. We can attend to the work of our hands and embrace our small yet worthy part in practicing resurrection. Remembering that we are forever beginners, never experts, at love.
Paris never slept, as I found to my pleasure when I returned at 21 and took up residence in a crummy hostel. Upland, in contrast, rarely seems to wake. But you can see the stars here like you never can in Paris, and the lonesome quiet of the prairie has started to feel like a companion. Maybe even a friend.
The irony of conversing with a stranger is that your individual lives always look very different and personal, but then you strip away the nuances to find a common likeness buried inside of diversity. Take away money and geography and we’re all just flesh and blood and soul. We’re all dealing with sin and forgiveness, love and hate, glory and shame. The big ideas remain. Life creates another day of history and the babies keep on coming. People dream their dreams. The young grasp at reinventing the wheel and the maturing masses learn to let go of such reinventions one breath at a time.