Abstract humanity has no draining friendships, annoying relatives, or untidy neighbors. We are never responsible for, or adversely affected by, humanity in the abstract. Facebook statuses, sound bites, and shots across the bow ought not be confused with the real and costly love that underwrites transformation. Bliss without righteousness is vacant, but righteousness without bliss is cruel.
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.