Sunday, September 02, 2007

But Futility is not the End

Because it's worth doing, even if no-one cares.

A famous dictum about art-making, which I have used myself on those occasions I have been a teacher, runs: If you don't to do it, don't. If you can quit it at any time, don't. It's too hard, too all-encompassing, too painful, to do it for any other reason than that you simply cannot not do it. If you need to make art because you can't live if you don't, then make art. If making art is more important to you than breathing, then make art. No other reason is important enough.

So of course one continues, despite doubt, despair, desolation, and destruction. One continues, for no other reason than that there is no choice: make art, or die. Actually, I can't imagine it any other way. It is as important to me as breathing. I have always made art, music, poems, essays; I've never stopped. I made art when I was working as a full-time graphic designer, when I was agrad student, when I was unemployed, when my income was steady. I have made art when life was excruciatingly painful and sorrowful, and I've made art when life was joyous and enriching. I have never not made some kind of art. I can't imagine it being any other way.

But if you can be talked out of making art, then stop right now. Don't do it. It's too hard, otherwise. There is no reward, other than the process and the product itself.

Futility arises when one feels like there's no point to what one is doing. Yet one continues to do it. As Samuel Beckett wrote: I can't go on, I must go on, I'll go on. You keep on going on because there's not stopping. That's the only reason you need. Even when you approach the light-limits of the visible universe, you go on. If you were trapped in a prison, you'd draw on the walls with your bleeding fingernails. If you were lost on a desert island, you'd make arrangements of stones in the sand, land-art sculptures that the tide would erode away daily. If you were well-to-do and living a comfortable life surrounded by those you loved, you'd still make art.

It doesn't matter what else is going on. You have to make art.

So, I continue to write. Now that so many of the hurried necessities of the part few months have abated, in the wake of my father's final illness and funeral, I actually have time to think about what I want to do next. The first time in almost two years I am not completely overwhelmed by the need to give care to others. (Can I re-learn to give care to myself? Stay tuned.) it doesn't matter in the least that I recorded almost no new music during that time, or that I'm not writing much poetry right now. They will cycle around again. And I have been taking thousands of new photographs; now I have time to begin sorting through them, and working with them; working them into new art-pieces. Now I have time to devote to daily art-making again; time I intend to use well, even if I produce nothing of any merit; or nothing at all.

You do it just to do it. No other reason. Even the futility of doing it for no reason, and no audience, doesn't stop you from doing it. You do it just to do it. And keep going.

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Anonymous May said...

Glad you haven't stopped posting.

2:10 PM  

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