"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."
"Imagine," John Lennon
I'm always prone to some tear-shedding when witnessing great art --
film, play, dance, music -- but I find I'm doing more of it lately.
The news I deal with daily as a political analyst is so horrendous,
coming from such a dark place in humanity's shadow world, that
anything that gives off light, evidences a transcendent spark, moves
me beyond words.
That's why treating the arts as a "fringe" activity in education,
the first item cut by money-strapped school boards -- while full
funding goes toward "teaching to the tests" under No Child Left
Behind -- makes my heart ache. What we should be financing is No
Child's Soul Left Behind.
Art is soul work. Does anyone doubt this? Just watch "at-risk" kids
rise beyond their troubles by painting or making music or dancing or
acting in a play. Observe the joyful concentration, the passion
invested, the creativity unleashed -- as a teacher, I find nothing
more satisfying. For the time they are engaged in artistic activity,
their real-world problems do not exist, or, put another way, their
problems are worked out (mostly subconsciously) in harmonious and
creative ways, through their art.
DOING ART VS. DOING WAR
I can't tell you how often I sit in an audience and observe the
glorious art that's come through an artist's troubled life bursting
into positive exploration, and, as the tears roll down my cheeks, I
think: "Nobody is being hurt or killed by this energy. This is
positive melding of artist and audience. Beauty is the opposite of
war. Art equals hope."
I've experienced these feelings intensely the past few days. One was
while viewing the feature film
"Once," a lively,
touching story of a young Irish busker and a young Czech woman he
meets as they make beautiful music together, in a variety of ways.
The other was listening yet again to my son Mark's first CD album,
"Yung Mars," dynamic,
enchanting melodies, rhymes and rhythms created from difficult
experiences in his young life -- loss of a love, political
struggles, creative blockages, etc. -- as well as songs based on
exceptional joys he's experienced.
IMMERSION INSIDE THE ART
Some musical compositions will move me to tears (Puccini's "Nessun
Dorma," for example, or one note toward the end of Mendelssohn's
Violin Concerto) or some lyrics (when the Weavers, for example, sing
in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" the line "Why can't there be
Christmas the whole year around?"), or watching Torvill & Dean dance
Ravel's "Bolero" on ice, or Baryshnikov levitate for what seems like
long seconds in a ballet. These, to me, are perfection in art, and
they aesthetically and emotionally blow me away.
Those who have worked as artists, either solo or with a group of
like-minded colleagues, know the transporting power of artistic
endeavor, the fun of exploration, feeling enraptured in the moment
of creation, the joy when others (especially when those others are
not friends or family!) are majorly affected by your work.
When I'm working on a new play, or poem, or now in photography, I
simply turn myself over to the artistic muses and let the flow take
me to places that often are surprising; almost always, I come away
enriched and deeply satisfied. Even when those explorations take me
to dead-end streets, I don't regret the journey. It's the adventure
of finding that is uplifting, invigorating, transformative. The find
will flow out of the finding.
Art operates on the assumption that there are nuggets to be mined
everywhere, even in locations that seem to be dead-ends. Just open
your eyes, open your heart, open your soul, and you'll find them --
and, even more exciting, you'll find connections there to so many
other levels and aspects of life. In short, you'll find yourself
caught up in the infinite warp and woof of Being. Very Zen.
Making art is hard, slogging work sometimes, but, as we all know, it
doesn't seem like "work" when one is totally wrapped up in it in a
positive way. The process of creation (as any woman in labor can
verify) is difficult but it's ineffably transformative, utterly
fulfilling; you feel as if you're properly aligned, centered, doing
what you're supposed to be doing, connected to the divine realm,
whatever words you use to describe that glorious, often numinous
THE HOLY GLUE OF COMMUNICATION
The busker in the movie "Once" has trouble expressing feelings
through talk, but he is able to reveal what's in his heart through
the songs he writes and sings. Art as universal language.
True communication, the kind that takes place on the deepest levels
is rare. We humans are easily-hurt creatures and we protect
ourselves from pain, rejections, insult, attack. We don't let very
many people inside our carefully constructed emotional forts. But
when we do take the risk and it works, when the soul-connection is
there, the communication that flows back and forth is the strongest
bond in the world, emotional and spiritual superglue, a conduit for
love and caring. Deep friendship, sexual oneness, marriage, shared
experiences in the maw of death, whatever the way that communion
might happen, it is a miracle of true communication. Each time it
happens in my life, I feel ineffably blessed, lucky, grateful.
Occasionally, a politician will come along who seems to possess that
kind of deep connection, whose heart is open, whose soul is
profoundly rich. In my life, there were very few that affected me
that deep way. When I was growing up in Florida in the 1950s,
Governor LeRoy Collins affected me along those lines; with great
courage in the segregationist South, he spoke about his Christian
teachings that led him to oppose Jim Crow laws and to the need to
tear down racial barriers to equality of opportunity. His political
career ended at that point, but he stood tall in my teenage eyes as
someone I'd follow anywhere.
Any others? The non-violent gurus, of course: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin
Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day. They lived their
beliefs, and in so doing took millions of us to a higher level of
soulwork. I also was much impressed by Eugene McCarthy and Robert
Kennedy. McCarthy, who I was lucky enough to spend time with, was
really a reluctant politician/warrior, being much more comfortable
as a poet; Bobby Kennedy in the last year of his life did a major
transformation of character right before our eyes, growing from a
small, ambitious pol into a big person of great moral suasion and
Three of those political leaders, one must remember, were
assassinated. Those who bring rare light to the world are always in
danger of being snuffed out by those more comfortable in, or who
benefit from, the predominant darkness.
WE ARE DESPERATE FOR THE LIGHT
In some ways, I think the public's disfavor toward Bush, Cheney,
Gonzales and the rest of the corrupt crew down there in the White
House bunker flows not just from their incompetence and dirty deeds
but from an unconscious revulsion at having been dragged down into
their fetid dark hole for much too long. We need, we long for, we
are desperate for, the light of critical intelligence, the fresh air
of imagination, creativity, optimism, hope in our polity.
This doesn't mean we're unaware of all the bad stuff happening out
there, all the greedy and lying types stealing us blind and the very
real terrorists who want to do us in, but we know that there are
better, more uplifting ways of dealing with the shadow matter in
front of us.
Our current leaders have sullied America's soul, they've made us
feel dirty, slimed, by scaring us into their dark, narrow world,
with its severely limited view of humanity's possibilities.
Republican office-holders in Congress, enjoying the perks of being
in power, have hung in with Bush&Co. much too long and are now
starting to realize that they are likely to go down in the next
election, and thus are making tactical "adjustments."
Watching GOP morality shift away from CheneyBush's disastrous
policies makes for some fascinating theater of the absurd. That
shift, oddly enough, is not reflected all that much in the announced
and unannounced Republican candidates for President, who have
hitched their wagon to regressive policies that will take them over
the electoral cliff on Election Day 2008.
The sad truth is that while CheneyBush -- and the Republican
presidential hopefuls -- are playing their parts in this tragifarce,
trying to elongate the run of their show through January 2009,
thousands more Americans will die or be maimed, tens of thousands of
Iraqis will be slaughtered as "collateral damage" (by both the U.S.
and "insurgent" forces), and the CheneyBush Administration will get
even more lunatic, with additional wars and escalations, more
destruction of the U.S. Constitution, further movement toward an
imminent martial-law society.
Impeachment is called for not only to remove the crooks and liars
from office so they can no longer continue to do great damage to the
national security and to the Constitution, but also as a symbol of
America's rededication to hope, honesty, rationality -- in short, to
the light that will help guide us out of our present dark morass.
Largely responsible for that light, and deserving of far more
support and encouragement than they tend to get, are our country's
artists: the poets, playwrights, comedians, satirists, musicians,
dancers, painters, sculptors, composers, et al. By their very
existence, they keep the torch lit, speaking truth to power, and
thus will never be defeated.
Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner