The Purpose

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” Dr. Martin Luther King

“…then what are we fighting for?” Winton Churchill – when asked to cut funding for the arts in favour of the war effort.

“Art washes away from the soul, the dust of every day life.” Pablo Picasso

Times are bad. Really bad… Mass shootings, political unrest, natural disasters, sex abuse scandals, threat of nuclear war, poverty, illness… I could go on. How do we even get ourselves out of bed in the morning? I suppose everyone has a way to cope. After all, here we are, right? But as artists –and by artists I mean anyone involved in creative work– we may ask ourselves, what is the use? What practical purpose does my writing, painting, poetry, photography, music, dance, woodworking, quilting, sculpting, and so on, and so on, serve?

I began this piece with those quotes for a reason. They encapsulate the purpose for art in all its forms. To shine a light in the darkness. To give an outlet for our emotions, be that joy expressed in laughter or deepest sorrow when we are moved to tears. Without art, without creativity, we are automatons: eating, sleeping, working, consuming. Repeat.

The arts allow us to escape but for a brief time from the troubles of real life. Art is good for the mind, for the heart, for the soul. It helps us articulate our feelings, gives us cathartic release. Why do you think we sing songs and recite poetry at funerals? Because the music or the beautiful verses give us a channel for our grief.

So if you’re ever asking yourself what’s the point, remind yourself that you as an artist, in whatever form you create, are one of the stars in the darkness. 

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Writer’s Words

That photo is of WB Yeats’ desk at Thoor Ballylee.

I’ve had a difficult week. I’ve been under a lot of pressure both personally and professionally (and when I say professionally, I mean my writing).  The weekend is bringing some positivity, by way of my dear friends and some much needed fun and games. Neverthelesss, my WIP is never far from my mind. The next week I hope to have the fog lifted, the cobwebs cleared and the Muse whispering to me again. (Hear that James? I’m counting on you…)

In the meantime, when I can’t write, I sometimes read about writing and writers. I found these quotes in my travels and figured I’d share. Profound truths in an economy of words:

Base Details – Siegfried Sassoon

As the war drags on, dreams of glory are replaced with bitterness and cynicism as revealed in this short poem by Siegfried Sassoon from 1918.

Siegfried_Sassoon_by_George_Charles_Beresford_(1915)
The author, 1915
If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel
Reading the Roll of Honor, ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say– ‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’ll toddle safely home and die– in bed.

 

According to historian Barbara Tuchman:

“After the Marne, the war grew and spread until it drew in the nations of both hemispheres and entangled them in a pattern of world conflict no peace treaty could dissolve. The Battle of the Marne was one of the decisive battles of the world not because it determined that Germany would ultimately lose or the Allies would ultimately win the war but because it determined that the war would go on. There was no looking back …”

“General staffs, goaded by their relentless timetables [for troop mobilization], were pounding the tables for the signal to move lest their opponent gain an hour’s head start. Appalled upon the brink, the chiefs of state who would be ultimately responsible for their country’s fate attempted to back away, but the pull of military schedules dragged them forward.” — The Guns of August

(Header image thanks to 1914-1918.net)