One of my favorite authors Michael Chabon stepped down recently as chair of the MacDowell Colony’s Board of Directors, an organization that foster the growth of artists.
His take on the current state of the world is bleak, with an essence of hope. Here’s a snip:
And what is that truth, the truth of art, that freeing blade, that slaking drink in the desert of the world? It’s this: You are not alone. I am not I; you are not you. We are we. Art bridges the lonely islands. It’s the string that hums from my tin can, over here looking out of my little window, to you over there, looking out of yours. All the world’s power over us lies in its ability to persuade us that we are powerless to understand each other, to feel and see and love each other, and that therefore it is pointless for us to try. Art knows better, which is why the world tries so hard to make art impossible, to immiserate artists, to ban their work, silence their voices, and why it’s so important for all of us to, quite simply, make art possible.
Hey, maybe that would make a good slogan.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better than I did when I started. The hell with fascism. The hell with bigotry and paranoia. The hell with fools falling for the lies of charlatans; that’s what fools do. We’re just going to keep on doing what we do: Making and consuming art. Supporting the people who remind us that we are in this together. We are each only one poem, one painting, one song away from another mind, another heart. It’s tragic that we need so much reminding. And yet we have, in art, the power to keep reminding each other.
We need words like this right now. Why? Because the world has become overwrought by people convincing the masses that politics and religion are more important than blood. That priority should be given to “belief” over family. That apathy is more important than empathy. That justice and “truth” is determined by a side of the political spectrum and not by honest to goodness hands reaching through darkness to pull friendship out of the mire caused by ignorance and shame.
When I began working as a photographer, I had an artist mentality of purity and naivety. It has evolved into different versions of cynicism and despair, followed by times of hope and joy. It’s a tough business.
I valued these words from Chabon. They gave me pause and time to reflect.