Asking myself big fluffy questions about art and my art and art as story versus art as craft… yadda yadda… it finally occurs to me how deeply inauthentic my work has been in recent years. Like a forgotten early 80s James Taylor song, my paintings and videos and photographs are so impersonal they disappear.
In my desire to tell moving stories, to inspire and even at times educate (many of those efforts can’t be found on this site because, hey, they kinda sucked), I kept trying to create a product. A brand name, a handle, a message.
Intuitives said: Think about who you are rather than what you do. But I couldn’t stop.
I wanted to create soul balm, vanishing cream for shame, a spray-on remedy for hopelessness. Not a terrible endeavor, but the harder I tried to document my beliefs in order to share them, the less clear they became. So I tried harder, pushing myself to codify my homegrown spirituality in some digestible form.
I didn’t want to package my ideas because it would make them more accessible, I wanted to because that’s what you do.
We live in the age of the personal brand. The lifestyle blogger, the influencer, curator, the hashtagged name. The way to excellence, today, is to pick a subject and a look and stick to it with every meme you’ve got.
And I wanted to do that about god.
Here’s the terrible truth: I have no idea why we’re here. I don’t know if there is a bliss to follow. I’m not convinced that it matters how you eat or whether you save for retirement. I’m not sure that personal growth is even possible for a lot of people.
I don’t know if anything happens after you die except the biological process of decomposition.
I do know that kindness tends to make life more pleasant, and I know that the line between kindness and weakness is perpetually shifting.
I was watching Manifesto tonight, a wonderful, very artful, movie, and remembered, Oh yeah. Artists and philosophers have only been asking these questions for thousands of years.
Questions like, Why am I here? Does any of this matter? Do I matter?
These kinds of questions are often waved off as depressing or “existential.” They are big, amorphous, dusty as the inside of a cave and dark as a starless sky. They serve no purpose, lead to no known target.
These kinds of questions will not be summarized in a hashtag.
After spending two years questing for a fresh-when-frozen, microwaveable meaning of life to sell the hungry masses one pithy tweet at a time, I am abandoning the pilgrimage. I have no answers. The existential question is all I’m left with.
And ironically, from that giant question mark in my heart, I find my voice. Simply to ask… What do you say? Why are we here?