Photo by David McCarty
There is a time for art, and there is a time for real life. Certainly art arises from life, and life is influenced by art. But, there are times when we shouldn’t confuse artifice and individual interpretation for actuality and community civilization. There comes a time when the pose of reality should not distract from the necessity of truth, when something not quite real must yield to the higher callings of art and its promise.
Art raises us up. While it may confound, it rarely confuses. It is infused with the important, with the tangible and the unexplainable, with the essential and the ineffable. Art, as does life, defies the easy, the base; by its very design, it explains and ennobles; it challenges and progresses; it moves us toward a better place, providing an oasis of contemplation, a rest of rumination. It does not stop us from realizing something about ourselves; art, and the trials and tribulations of life it so often essays, propels us to a better place.
Art is about choices. The artist makes the first choice, deciding what to see and how to explain it. But that choice is always active and engaged. Artists don’t create out of indifference; they seek. Art is their exploration and our journey. And therein lies the second choice of art: how we interpret it. How we take it and move it through our sense, our passion or understanding. Again, it is active and requires engagement. We don’t choose the lesser of art, we choose the greatest possible expression. We choose that which engages us on some level simple or complex, which captures us, the best part of us, the deepest reach of us, we take what intrinsically lifts us to another place…a landing better than the footprint behind, an awareness deeper than the one before, an embrace that explains us and guides us on.
We don’t choose a piece of art because it is the least offensive or a path in life because it seems the most tractable. We don’t listen to the music that is the least dissonant, or attempt a challenge, because it is, well, the least challenging. We grasp the highest bar, embrace the fullest moment, seek the greatest possible existence. That is the reality of us. We did not get this far choosing less. We don’t choose art because it fills a space; we choose art because it creates a place.
I recently lost a friend. Until her final breath, she never stopped dreaming of the power of life and of art and the necessary place it creates for and within us all. At the end of our days we can best hope to have lived a useful life, one that makes this place and the people in our lives a little better. She went beyond. Hers was a meaningful life. Through her art, she created a community. She gave her place and an uncountable number of people an infinite and powerful voice. Her vision was clear, her energy was limitless, and her commitment was absolute. And today those of us who knew her are all diminished. But today we also know our lives were made unarguably and unalterably richer; and tomorrow we will continue to feel her spirit and will endeavor to walk the path she so remarkably envisioned.
Right now, this time is about us and everything. In a world whirled by virtual reality and tempted by false impression, we must decide how we move forward. What is our path? What explains us? What defines us? We cannot allow anything to be simply an imitation, not life of art, nor art of life. They are each in themselves the greatest possible expression of who we are today and what we can be tomorrow. We must never for an instant seek the lesser. We must seek the best…and know that our act of choosing will allow us to make even that greater.