Monday, October 19, 2009

Art and the Deep Song

"The artist appeals to that part of our being... which is a gift and not an acquisition, and therefore more permanently enduring."--Joseph Conrad

On a gray autumn morning, with the trees gold and red outside the windows, I'm thinking about the gift of art, its heightened gestures and how it connects us to the deep song, the song of our heart, our essential self.

Art whether in the form of dance, music, singing, poetry, literature, painting, sculpture, film, theater gives us a way to move out beyond static, habitual perception and experience.

Suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of some kind of astounding beauty, heartbreaking in its immediacy and fullness, and it's vibrating, cascading, pouring through us in the stillness of our focused attention.

What rites of passage, nourishment and initiation art proffers, what gifts it brings. This is certainly as true for the artistic process as it is for experiencing the finished work. Creating art reveals you to yourself.

When I was a child, I took incredible delight in reading the dictionary. On any page, some words stood out more than others. I was attracted to those words; they opened up beautiful worlds of feeling, color and meaning. And then I discovered something that seemed even more magical-- from those disparate, exotic, tasty, brilliant, moving words I could create, through some type of magnetism, concentration and ecstatic discovery, whole streams of words that formed a poem and told a story.

Creating art occupies me with the same sense of delight and discovery many decades later. It presents beautiful challenges and allows me to share myself with others in ways that so-called ordinary life does not always afford.

When I was in my early 50s it began to dawn on me that if I lived long enough I would grow old. Then I noticed the vitality of older artists--among them dancers, painters, blues singers, classical musicians. It's beautiful--and it makes sense not to retire when you are so richly immersed in what you love to do, and what brings such joy to others.

That's something to pay attention to, I told myself. Pay attention to the vivid links between creativity and well-being; pay attention to the generous nourishment and rejuvenation that art provides. Pay attention to the joy of offering up the deep song.

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