“Do you think a society is good, or that people are good? We are only as good as the artists and writers can make us appear.” ~ Anonymous
It’s difficult for me to sit back and say nothing about the events of the past few days in Paris, France. But as the bloodshed continues headlining every news channel and permeating my mind, I cannot help but to voice my thoughts of this insidious sphere. I cannot help but be saddened for the loss of all lives, yet I’m reminded of a simple time in my life, one that seems so long ago, but one that solidified my duty in life long before I was ever aware of it.
I’m reminded of my love for creation.
What is it to be creative? What does it mean to spend hours creating, crafting and working only to step back and breathe life into a work of art or words? What is this feeling of muse, this desire to create? What does it mean?
As I am both an artist and a writer, I must express my opinion and answer these questions as only I can. Though it is different for all, the reasons for why remain true. The centrality of the answer is of one sphere; one common bond shared in the creative spirit.
We are the voices of the world. We paint bare walls of lifeless concrete and brick with color and depth, giving them life, freeing them from the grey; the blankness, the void of feeling.
We make a wall happy, we make a sidewalk bright. We make the books that children hate to read tolerable and interesting. We see color where there is no light. We see shades where only blackness exists. We paint life into lifelessness.
We burn the tongues with flavor and steep the mind with wonder. We give our hearts to the world, only to be creative and we ask nothing in return.
We only exist to speak, brush and brighten.
Speaking of brightness. I remember the age of twelve. This was the time where my world consisted only of artwork and stories; my stories, stories I wrote just because I could. I never shared these stories.
These stories were of people, places and ideas, yet they never saw the light of any eyes beyond my own. They lived only in my room, never traveling beyond my desk drawer. Even more lived only in my mind, never free, never birthing from my heart; never to grace another.
Then there were my drawings. Drawings so simple that I dared show them to anyone; scribbles with pen and pencil, pastel and charcoal. Figures that I saw in my head, things that I imagined. All of these things lived in my room, in my notebook, my sketchbook and folder. These creations never would wake. They would never reveal their power and they would never receive ridicule, criticism, promise or praise.
My world was my creation, my interpretation of the world around me, my assimilation of the things I was told and taught, of what I heard, spoke and thought. These simple expressions of my sensory world would flow back through my eyes, through my hands and then through the pen or the brush to land on a page where they would touch nobody but me, where they were safe.
But this was the age of twelve.
Shortly after this time still living within my own world of lines and letters, portraits and paragraphs, near the age of thirteen, I remember sitting at my cousin’s house. I remember it clearly, as it would be a day that changed my distinction of the world of Art.
We were to spend the summer together. That night I sat up doodling on my sketchpad which was full of every drawing one could think of. Everything from cartoons to stick figures, from comic book characters to my first attempts at abstract art or impressionism. But mostly…. It was full of drawings of Spider-Man.
On the eve before we were to make the 600 mile journey from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico where my grandparents resided, her boyfriend, a man named Charles, came over the night before we would depart.
I remember it clearly:
“What are you drawing over there bud?”
“Nothing.” I mumbled.
“Well, let’s see!”
Before I could really defend my sketchpad from the eyes of someone else it had been taken from me, though gently.
As Charles and my cousin looked through my sketchbook they kept looking back at me with gaping mouths. I could only imagine what they thought. But only words of praise came from their lips.
As the show and tell progressed, Charles asked me what my friends thought about them. I responded by saying that I never had shown anyone. Nobody had ever read my stories and nobody had ever seen my artwork.
He asked why.
I said with an interrogative tone, “Because what if they hate them?”
He looked at me and laughed, then grabbed a newspaper. Pointing to the comic strips, he said,
“Do you think these guys were afraid of being hated, probably, but now everyone gets to appreciate their effort.”
“It’s a risk you’ll have to take one day bud.”
And with that simple statement, my world was invaded. My private world was shattered with the words of logic and reason that was so sound in my young mind that I could not dispute it. The validity of the moment was what I felt, and I can say without any question that in that particular moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted nothing more than to be a writer and artist.
This is why we write, paint, draw, sculpt, dance and sing. Because we can. Because it makes a distinct impression on the world around us. Because it reflects our culture, our lives and our world. We express the form of what we see through a myriad of mediums. This is a part of being human. We bring the human condition to the forefront, telling stories and carving busts that last throughout time, some lasting thousands upon thousands of years.
We etch images and phrase into the stone tablets of history simply because we can. We need no commissions for this, no compensation at all. We gladly create and leave it there for all to know about, wonder about, smile and imagine.
For those who believe that they can silence the artisans of the world in the place of religious or political rhetoric, these people will fail. We are the hands of the world, creating what we perceive as life, exercising our divine right of the freedom of self-expression.
Particularly for those who attempt to punish artists for making religious statements in the name of God, these people are fools. We will drag their images into the annals of history and leave nothing but the stain of their pathetic vengeance and disregard for human life as their legacy.
Should we all cower under the blanket as those with malicious agendas attempt to censor and terrorize our inalienable God given rights? I shall not.
Should we all be twelve years old? Afraid to show the beauty, humor, sadness or glory of our work simply because someone may hate it?
I never will again.
This is the sphere of judgment, and Judgment is not the place or duty or right of ANY man, no matter their religion, ideology or philosophy; and certainly not for those who do so while proclaiming the love and greatness of God.
How dare anyone use God as a scapegoat for the slaughter and violence we’ve seen in the past few days. Whether or not you agree with political or religious satire matters little. These are opinions, and this is the expression of the world in which we live.
Live and love righteously and then perhaps we’ll paint a better picture of life; expressing a life of even more beauty than could possibly be realized.
It saddens my heart, as I feel and know that I’ve lost brothers.
If we are to live among one another, we must love one another; opinions and expressions alike. It is this simple.
Je Suis Charlie