Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Gratitudes

One of the things I am grateful for, thankful for, despite all the pain and suffering it took to get me to the point of understanding—the many detours and wrong turns, the early knowledge and adult denials, denials for the sake of propriety and trying to please others, and ending with gratitude even for the horrific medical journey I've been on that culminated in surgery and recovery—is this:

Everything else stripped away, I at least know and accept now that my purpose in life is to make art.

Create. Make things. Write. Make music. Poems. Photography. Digital visionary and shamanic art. Paint. To make art.

It's what I'm best at doing, possibly the only thing I'm really any good at doing. It was what I was born to do.

I knew this when I was a boy, but then everything in life, and almost everyone, conspired to convince me I was wrong, that I could never succeed at being a composer or artist. That I had to find a "real" job. And I believed them. Or enough parts of me were beaten into that belief that I started to sabotage my own artistic success, by doubt and fear and self-created drama.

Enough. Maybe I'll never "succeed" as an artist, by becoming a wealthy and famous composer or writer or artist, but at least I've stopped fighting the core truth: making art is what I'm supposed to do.

Doesn't mean it will always be easy, or pain-free, but having a purpose goes a long way towards making the rest of life bearable.

I'm thankful for knowing what I'm FOR.

I hope you know that about yourself, too.

Thank You for the gift of beautiful and artful things
For the gift of being able to appreciate and enjoy them
For the gift of being able to make them
For the tools and materials and skills used to make them
And for the friends to enjoy making alongside
And for the friends to enjoy them along with

I think it was probably the life-threatening, near-death experiences I've been through recently—during which a lot of nonessential things got pared away, leaving the core of who I am—that this clarity about my purpose came life was able to emerge. A lot of useless drama in my life has fallen away. I have a heightened sense of my own mortality, the limited time on this earth to get done what I want to get done.

It was also a wake-up call to convert some old bad self-defeating habits into a more positive focus on what is possible rather than what was lost. That's still a new thing, still a fragile bit of learning. I have to remind myself to be positive rather than defeatist, most days. At the same time, I find I have less and less patience for those things and people that seem purposed towards wasting my time and energy. Awareness of your own mortality can heighten your impatience about wasting time. Stated more positively, I'll never be bored again. I have no time for boredom. There's too much to do, and I want to do it all.

Asked recently to write a short bio to accompany a set of my poems being published, I acknowledged this new awareness.

Arthur Durkee has finally woken up to the truth that his purpose in life is to Make Things: be an artist, a composer, poet, musician, painter, photographer, songwriter, landscape sculptor, book artist, videographer, etc. This realization came on the heels of a long illness, near-death experience, surgery, and recovery. Creative work is what he does best, and best loves doing; in fact, it's the only thing he's really good at. He's tried a lot of other jobs, from corporate to retail, and never excelled at any of them. He does still dabble for fun in freelance design and illustration for books and magazines, and creating art for musicians, such as posters and CDs. He observes the world from a slight angle, with an artist's eye and a bard's ear, and gives it back within new frames of focus. We are but mirrors and we marvel.

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Blogger Maya Idriss said...

Full gratitude for you Art, to be present in my life through your blog, art and openness to communicate. Cheers to your life! Best smiles from across the globe, Lebanon, Middle East.

3:32 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Maya. :)

3:10 PM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I like the wee bio, Art. I could tweak it a wee bit and happily use it as my own but I won’t. I actually realised what my purpose in life was many years ago. The sad thing, the truly sad thing, is that I didn’t follow my natural urges; I allowed reason to take me off in other (safer) directions. What frustrates me now is that I no longer have the dynamism of my twenties and thirties. If only I’d applied myself in the right way then… Ah, but if wishes were horses they’d probably trample us underfoot.

When I was still at school, by the way, for a while my standard greeting was, “So, how’s the world from your angle?”

12:59 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I try not to have any regrets about the past, as there's nothing you can do about it now, except to choose differently NOW, but if I did allow myself to have any regrets it would exactly what you say, Jim, when you talk about letting reason take you off in more reasonable (safer) directions. I made the same choices.

And now we're no longer 25, and it takes more effort. On the other hand, choosing now not to block ourselves does free up the energy we used to use trying to keep ourselves being reasonable and safe. That's actually a lot of energy, at least I feel like it is. It makes me more artistically on fire than ever before, not less.

The angle thing reminds me of what E.M. Forster said of C.P. Cavafy, a poet who "stood at a slight angle to the universe." It's a good thought. I'm sure most artists would fall into that angle, too.

1:12 AM  

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