"I believe words matter. I believe images matter. I believe music matters. I believe all of these things frame opinion and thought in mysterious ways we can barely explain. Because in this 21st century, the Media really does carry The Message.” Sunday Salon, Modern Creative Life, July 4, 2016
Oh, that Message.
It’s been really something, hasn’t it? For the past six months The Message has been increasingly virulent, hateful, and divisive. Ugly words are said out loud and broadcast across the world. Angry messages are hurled into cyberspace. People are “unfriended” - online and in real life too.
I don’t know about you, but this Presidential election is really wearing me out. My head hurts, my heart is sore. I alternately tremble with anger and fear. Neither The Message we are getting nor The Message we are sending aligns with my true nature or my beliefs about the people of this country.
If there is any good to come of this, it is the wisdom that arises from struggle. We see clearly now that there are deep crevices in the way we’ve perceived ourselves as a nation and the way we’ve presented ourselves to the world. There exists a deep fear and paranoia that was inflamed on September 11, 2001, and has been exploited by splinter groups within the country until they unearthed this candidate who speaks to all their fears.
If we are to survive as a strong and independent nation, with “liberty and justice for all,” these divisions must be addressed. Bridges must be built. Wounds must be healed. Hands must reach across all aisles for other hands.
For the past few weeks, I have been trying to remove myself from the fray as much as possible. I’m not always successful, and when I find myself sucked down that odious rabbit hole, I finally walk away feeling agitated and nauseous. So I’m working hard to limit my time on social media and turning off the 24-hour television news stations.
Instead, I’m turning myself toward the glorious colors of nature, gulping down deep breaths of frosty air. I’m biting into crisp apples, diving into good books, opening my ears to the sounds of beautiful music well played. I’m letting laughter bubble out at local theater productions, I’m trying new recipes for hearty soups and comforting stews. When I’m out and about, I try to treat people with exquisite care, thinking of them as compatriots in this mission of healing, knowing that everyone has a story and wounds of their own that I can’t see. I smile at strangers, I buy coffee for mom in the SUV behind me at the drive-through. I hand a $10 bill to a teenage girl standing under an overpass bearing a sign that says “Hungry and Homeless."
These are the moments that bring me peace, and open small spaces of hope within my heart.
I’m investing in beauty, with my senses and my soul.
Irish poet John O’Donohue writes this: “The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere - in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. (...) When we expect and engage the Beautiful, a new fluency is set free within us and between us. The heart becomes rekindled and our lives brighten with unexpected courage. It is courage that restores hope to the heart."
I feel extremely fortunate to be a creative person in these days, because I believe with all my heart that creativity is designed to evoke and promote beauty. Because my life has been filled with deep appreciation for literature and music and art, I am primed to engage the transformative power of their beauty to enrich my own senses, inform my way of being, and soothe my troubled heart. I am also obliged then, to take this new awareness into the way I walk through the world.
I believe our mandate as artists in this information age is to use our creative intelligence and ability to promote good – to advocate healing and acceptance and understanding and wisdom. To reflect beauty, invite contemplation, and offer common ground. This is MY message.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do,” wrote the poet/philosopher Rumi. “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
Creative friends, we have awesome power, with untold avenues and opportunities to put a message into the world, to plant seeds of change. In the United States, we have amazing freedoms with which to do that.
Let us invest in them wisely and well.
How about you? Are you feeling heartsick and tired of the vibrations in the country these days? How are you investing in beauty as an anecdote?