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Cracking

July 3, 2012

Secret Path

I have one semi-religious decoration in the house, a framed quote that says:

“The journey to God is merely the remembrance of where you are always and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed.”

The journey has been much on my mind. Sometimes I get so weary of this examined, creative life. How does it turn into a slog? I don’t know. It’s supposed to be joyous, isn’t it? Yet at times it feels like so much work to keep digging at the truth of one’s being.

The journey feels like walking a tightrope between gratitude and complacency, between dwelling on dissatisfaction and moving toward something better.

Some days I look around and see people moving through their lives, content in a rote existence, passive, flying under the radar. I know people who never speak up, never feel a need to share their deeper selves. I wonder what it would be like to live that way.

I’m not made for that, though. I’m made to crack open like an egg and let the yolk spill out. Sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes it’s just a damned mess. Other times, when the conditions are right, my offerings to the world become a perfect omelet, a dish they find tasty and delightful and everyone is fed and happy for a bit.

The tricky part is that even I don’t know what is going to happen, but I have to crack. There’s no alternative for me, no matter how hard I resist and how much I question. I’m all too aware that sometimes I am going to be left standing there covered in gunk, with most people walking by and giving me the embarrassed side-eye. But I can’t not do it.

(This is why creative people need creative friends. Because they understand and appreciate how hard it is to try and fail embarrassingly when you bring your work for the world to see. They’ll not give you a hard time, but will instead let you curl up on their couch and eat salty, crunchy, high-carb snacks as you heal a bit.)

My favorite quote from Jesus is from the lost gospel of Thomas:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is in you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

That’s the trouble with the creative life. Sometimes the things boiling inside feel like they will destroy you. Everyone wants to think that creativity is this big fun dance. At times it is. Those are the times you want people to see – “Hey, look at me, creating brilliance and having a ball doing it! Haha!”

It’s harder to admit the cracking and the boiling and the self-doubt. (Go watch Schmutzie’s TED video for a brilliant exposition on the power of self-doubt.)

But without making the trek inside to where everything lies – the good, the bad, the fugly – there isn’t any art, is there? Or maybe just no art that gets deep inside other people.

That’s the problem with “art” like Thomas Kincaide’s “Paintings of Light” – they’re all surface and pretty, but they don’t have any guts, any reach. I don’t think Kincaide ever cracked to produce his art. Instead, he buttoned up, kept the authentic mess out, sacrificed the real on the altar of the appealing.

The other day in church, I sat with tears of gratitude in my eyes as Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe performed. Larisa is an energy genius. It’s hard to describe what she does as a performer, because it has to be felt to be believed.

At the expense of sounding too kooky-wooky, I’m convinced that she hooks into the universal energy and brings it into the room and magnifies it and works it as a blessing to the audience – a real kind of darshan – the audience is graced and filled just by being there.

This doesn’t happen by accident. Larisa is totally focused – in a very gently, loving, but fierce way – on making it happen. She and her band are practiced and tight and talented.

She is bringing forth what is within her as a gift, and that is what moved me so much. Like all great artists – like all artists – she cracks herself open allow the energy to flow through her and to share her insides with the world and to create positive change by doing so.

For a performer, that is a real art. I have only experienced it a few times. One was with Ray Charles. Another was, surprisingly, at a high school choir concert where I got chills watching the soloist do what I call “getting God.” It is a mysterious and magnificent and wonderful thing.

There have been times – most of my life, actually – where I haven’t wanted to bring forth what was in me. I wanted to play it safe, to have everyone like me. I had to get over that to produce anything at all. Even now it’s a daily leap into icewater to get myself to work.

But it is worth it. Every cracking, every plunge into unknown depths is worth it, because that movement, no matter how hard or shocking it is, is what gives us creative people the lives we are born to have.

That’s why it is a journey without distance, even though at times it feels exhausting and like we’d rather be doing anything else. The glory is there, ready to share. We just have to be willing to crack open, over and over, to get there.

*****
I read an edited version of this post at Creative Alliance 12 in Ojai. Here’s that version
*****
I might as well say it. I can admit it here.

Sometimes I get so weary of this examined, creative life. How does it turn into such a slog? I don’t know. It’s supposed to be joyous, isn’t it? Yet at times it feels like too much work to keep digging at the truth of one’s being.

It feels like walking a tightrope between gratitude and complacency, between dwelling on dissatisfaction and moving toward something better.

Some days I look around and see people moving through their lives, passive or maybe just content, flying under the radar. I know people who never speak up, never feel a need to share their deeper selves. I wonder what it would be like to live that way.

I’m not made for that. I was born, for reasons unknown, made to crack open like an egg and let the yolk spill out. Sometimes that process is a surprise and sometimes it’s just a damned mess. Other times, when the conditions are right, my offerings to the world become a perfect meal, an omelet people that hits the spot and laves everyone fed and happy for a bit.

The tricky part is that even I don’t know what is going to happen, but I have to crack. There’s no alternative for me, no matter how hard I resist and how much I try to hold together.

I’m all too aware that sometimes my creative ideas are going to leave me standing there with metaphorical egg on my face, with most people walking by and giving me the embarrassed side glance. But still I can’t NOT do it.

(This is why creative people need creative friends. Because they understand and appreciate how hard it is to try and fail embarrassingly when you spill your insides for the world to see. They won’t give you a hard time. They’ll just let you curl up on their couch and eat salty, crunchy, high-carb snacks as you heal a bit.)

My favorite quote from Jesus is from the lost gospel of Thomas:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is in you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

That’s the trouble with the creative life. Sometimes the things growing inside feel like they will destroy you. Everyone wants to think that creativity is this big fun show. At times it is. Those are the times you want people to see – “Hey, look at me, creating brilliance and having a ball doing it! Haha!”

It’s harder to admit the painful stretching and the cracking and the self-doubt.

But without making the trek inside to where everything lies – the good, the bad, the fugly – there isn’t any art, is there? Or maybe just no art that gets deep inside other people.

That’s the problem with “art” like Thomas Kinkaide’s “Paintings of Light” – they’re all surface and pretty, but they don’t have any guts, any reach. I don’t think Kincaide ever cracked to produce his quaint little paintings of villages at sunset. Instead, he buttoned up, kept the authentic mess out, sacrificed the real on the altar of the appealing.

There have been times – most of my life, actually – where I haven’t wanted to bring forth what was in me. I wanted to play it safe, to have everyone like me. I had to get over that to produce anything at all. Even now it’s a daily leap into icewater to get myself to work.

But it is worth it. Every cracking, every plunge into unknown depths is worth it, because that movement, no matter how hard or shocking it is, is what gives us creative people the lives we are born to have.

13 Comments
  1. July 3, 2012 12:00

    It can be oh so hard, like it is right now for me, but whenever I get through to the other side of whatever I’m working through/creating, it is always worth it. I need to remember that. Thank you.

    • July 4, 2012 07:00

      Your work is amazing, and you inspire me. You definitely inspired this post.

  2. July 3, 2012 12:04

    Currently, have bucket of soapy water.

    • July 4, 2012 07:00

      Haha I edited to take that part out, so that comment will just make you seem loopy. Love it. But keep cleaning!

  3. July 3, 2012 14:28

    I kind of love the egg metaphor.

    • July 4, 2012 06:59

      Thanks, Sarah. I edited a bit more…I can get pretty rambly.

  4. July 4, 2012 18:11

    Truth.

  5. July 5, 2012 15:45

    I think one of the reasons I continue to come read what you write is not just that much of what you put into words resonates with me, but also that its clear that you put in the effort to be authentic, even when you’re not sure how people will react to that. You have to be selectively vulnerable in order to draw on that mystery that turns it into art…and I think you think you miss the mark a heck of a lot more than you actually do.

    • July 5, 2012 16:49

      Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you. I appreciate so much that you keep coming back.

  6. July 8, 2012 20:14

    Ah, hell. I crack all over the place.

    I wish I knew what it felt like to feel like I had a choice in the matter. Because it is mortifying. The egg on the face, and everywhere else.

    Your post really resonated with me. And made me feel sort of wistful, and sad.

    I imagine you felt the same, writing it. Thanks for sharing.

  7. July 16, 2012 17:09

    Well now I have a favorite Jesus quote too. Who knew. Love this post.

    • August 1, 2012 20:40

      Spreading the Good Word, that’s what I do here.

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