Open The Door

748. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

“The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.” George Sand

The first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is that all of life is suffering. In this context the predicament of the artist is no different than that of a plumber or a president though I’ve yet to find a plumber who considers suffering necessary to his or her vocation. With artists (in the USA) suffering is central to the narrative. It is an expectation and seems to be a prerequisite. Why do artists think they need to suffer or believe that suffering unlocks the door to their artistry? It doesn’t.

Here are some conditions central to unlocking the door to artistry: curiosity, experimentation, exploration, discovery, passion, investigation, play, “What if…?”

We do not easily walk into our shadows. One of the roles of artist is to go where others choose not to go. A walk into the shadow may be uncomfortable but it is equally as liberating. An artist is supposed to see what others cannot and sometimes that is painful. An artist often acts as a bridge between worlds of perception, living on the edge of the village, translating the signs. As the god of transitions and boundaries, Hermes was of this ilk. He was also the protector of poets. Sometimes it is the role of the artist to travel into the netherworlds to retrieve a truth or a lost soul. Orpheus descended into the underworld to reclaim Eurydice. He did not trust so he lost what he most desired. His artistry was a gift of the gods. His suffering was from distrust of the gods’ gift.

At times artistry may be solitary or scary but it is always transforming. Always. An artist rarely “fits” the social norms but continually serves the health and growth of the community. Artists are transformational.

The coaching work I do with artists (myself included) often requires a stroll into this misguided ideal or expectation of suffering. What are the underlying assumptions that make suffering or madness an erroneous precondition for artistry? This is what I know: suffering is what happens when we ignore our innate artistry or smother our essential creative spark. Suffering is not a prerequisite to anything. Suffering is a sign that the artistic door is closed.

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