I was going to sit down and write about one of my favourite books, ‘The Gift’ (How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World) by Lewis Hyde. The book is ‘a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities’ and planted the seed for mutantspace.com. It, like much of what I‘ve read in last few years, was an articulation of a thought I already had and it gave me space to clarify my own ideas, it was a signpost.
My whole life has been full of signposts, often leading me into the undergrowth, unknown spaces, where I have had no map for I have never really known, or cared to know, where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there. The only concern I had was that I would keep following my signposts. I couldn’t imagine it any other way for I believe that the role of the creative individual is to follow their signs, to react, reflect, inform, share and express the experience of that journey. Too often we take the easy path, the guaranteed option, take ownership of it. Keep it for ourselves.
A few weeks ago I was having a pint with a friend and the subject of ‘why we bother’ came up. Why do we struggle on trying to scratch a living? What’s the point in making work that no one sees, appreciates? The conversation is a constant echo in my head, I hear it all the time, it’s loud and constant droning must be relative to your age; the older you get the more time there is to look back on, the more decisions there is to ruminate on, the more signs there is to reflect on .
When you’re young, in your 20s the question simply isn’t there – you’re just propelling forward oblivious, your momentum fuelled by youth, vigour, hope, possibility, every sign a new opportunity with nothing to lose. As you grow older it gets harder to keep moving, your baggage is heavier; you’ve grown roots, worry more, seek comfort, keep a full house of habits. And once ensconced and gradually petrifying in the middle age of your life, dark thoughts begin to fester;
“What will I leave behind?”
“What’s it all about?”
“I’m never going to amount to anything”
“I thought I was better than this”
“Does anyone appreciate me, my work?”
Malignant viruses can destroy anyone. A creative life hard fought brought down by a dark thought. But are not all these thoughts vain, conceited? Did you set out on your journey as a creative individual because you wanted to leave a legacy behind, wanted to be acclaimed, famous, glorified, written about, historically defined? Is that why you started playing, drawing, performing, writing, surely not? For me, following signposts wherever they may take me is good enough. I don’t want to stop learning, wondering, thinking, trying, helping, sharing, building. And as long as I don’t stop then I in my own little way will always be adding to the pool that we call culture, a pool that encompasses the entire history of the human condition. Is that not a wonderful gift to pass on?
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