Monday, January 21, 2008

Fire Sky and the Courage to Create

This is an excerpt from The Courage To Create, Rollo May, 1975:
"This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus and Sartre have proclaimed that courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair."

I started art school in September of 1976, at the tender age of 17, and when I read this book the first time, I did not get it. I read it because it was assigned by one of my freshman year teachers. I'm sure I slid through my first reading of it half consciously at best.

I picked it up again, later in my 20's as I was beginning to look for some answers for myself. And again. I woke up today thinking of this book, and not finding it on my bookshelf, I ordered a copy. I want to read it again.

What stands out for me now as I read these words is the part 'every sensitive person'. Rollo May wrote this in the early 1970's, during and just after a time of great social upheaval. Everything was changing, more quickly ever day, as we all know now. He was referring to the courage it takes, in spite of the tumult going on all around, to create a new world. I see it as being more than a painter, or writer, or filmmaker, or musician. It is really about one becoming the artist of one's own life, and in doing so, creating a new reality.

In order for someone to create, to become an artist, it may be necessary to open up, to become even more sensitive. What a challenge now! In fact, I can't think of a time in history when it wouldn't have been a challenge to be sensitive. It's often seen as a negative, as in "oh, don't be so sensitive!" As I've gotten older, I've become much more so, to my delight. There is a deeper and wider range to draw upon. I've had to pull down a few walls to do this. In order to pull those down, I had to get safer, make new rules for my life, stop taking everyone's pain on as my personal crusade. Many people are reluctant to open themselves up, wisely so. Once someone has been hurt, that person understandably becomes a bit gun shy about letting that happen again.
But that is also how we grow, evolve, learn. Not that one needs to seek out challenging experiences. They tend to show up. :-)
(Read About How Joshua Trees Grow Here.)

There is a hilarious but painful scene in Art School Confidential. John Malkovich plays a bitter art teacher, leading a life drawing class. As his class is drawing away at their easels, he is lecturing them; "And remember, only one in one hundred of you will ever make a living as an artist".

One thing I have learned while becoming an artist is that if I wanted to make real work, I had to be able to Get More Real. This doesn't mean I have to paint realistically! It means I have to Be more realistic, ie, more like myself. That means less like you, or her, or him. But wait, I used to wonder, what does that mean? Who am I? Aye, there's the rub! To be me, or not to be me?

What does courage mean to you? Where are you most courageous in your life?

"Fire Sky" 2005 34"x32" SOLD


Noel said...

Kris, I appreciate your courage. I believe you are the real thing, baby! Tear down the walls.

dancepiration said...

The courage to create, in spite of despair?...

...if I don't create, that's when I despair! Art making, dancing and being creative, these have been my therapies; throughout all the many trials that life has brought my way.

Kris, I like the way you're going along in this article, sharing your thoughts on the topic and smack in the middle of your post you add: (Read About How Joshua Trees Grow Here) I was already enjoying my read, and it got ten times more meaningful b/c of your mention of the Joshua Tree.

Your words snapped my mind back to the period in my life when I finally became courageous. And it was through my creative persuits and U2's album "The Joshua Tree", that I eventually came back to the 'true me'; the childlike, playful, happy me.

Thank you for yet another inspiring post. I go now to work on a blog post I should have written yesterday. It was a special anniversary for me--the 6th year since I became a poet! :)

So it's not surprising to me that you posted this on the day when my mind was recalling that very time period in which I got my courage. Your thoughts are so cosmically on target!


Sue O'Kieffe said...

i find that being vulnerable, and exposing myself, gets easier as i get older. i also find that courage builds on itself and things i might not have done a year ago are easier for me now. courage is really such a turn on!
i have a little something for you at my blog. please stop by
~sue okieffe

John (Copyright JMM 2007-2008) said...

Kris, this is one of my favorite books - Rollo also writes about the cycle of the creative process - intense involvement and then relaxation. It is during that relaxation that often a thought/idea/act crystalizes - that moment when the problem is resolved and the "artist" is comnpletely lucid and aware. The answer/solution suddenly seems so obvious and a fog is lifted.

You need rest to be truly productive. Obesrving someething like the Sabbath is "the best" because religion tells you to relax and meditate.

I am planning to re-read it.

Thank you for your thoughts and the image, icing on a very wise cup.cake.

Gravymaster said...

Don't know you at all. Just happened here by chance because we both like the movie "The Ruling Class." Glad I visited because I truly like your art and your outlook. How could you be so great and be in LA and be unknown to me? Keep forging. Love it!


Kris Cahill said...

Noel, right back at you, baby!

Shoshana, you are truly an inspiration with your absolute joy of living! You will have me taking a dance class soon enough!!

Sue, I am right there with you. Especially the part about courage being a turn on. It is so for me when I act courageous.

John, as ever, thanks for your colorful, wise, and visual way with words. I agree that rest is necessary for one's creative health.

Gravymaster, Thanks for the visit!

Sweet Irene said...

I hesitate to answer this question, because I think that I have to have courage very single day of my life and I don't know if that is the kind of courage you are talking about.

So often I feel like this, that "courage is the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair".

Being manic depressive, I have many moments of despair, yet I always have to find the courage to overcome those and keep believing in a good outcome and a better tomorrow.

I don't know if I actually move ahead that much. Sometimes it feels like I am standing still or that I am starting back from point zero. I gain bits of wisdom along the way, that's true, but the disorder is a hard one and trips you up often, so you are always having to pick yourself up and start over again.

But I very much like the quote from the book and it touches me very much. It is something to stop and think about and to integrate into your thoughts about yourself.

I have written it down and will keep it handy to look at now and then.

Sweet Irene said...

I forgot to say how very much I like the painting and how much it seems like a landscape of my mind sometimes when I am at rest and most lucid.

Chris O'Byrne said...

Great post and wise words. I especially loved the part about the Joshua Tree!

My courage was to finally say several years ago that I did not have to live the same way as everyone else in my family and keep the same job for 30 years and keep living in Minnesota and so on. The hardest part was believing in myself. Now I look back and chuckle and keep on living this wonderful life I've created.

The Artful Eye said...

Courage means being able to look myself straight in the eye and say "Eye do you see what I see?" and being okay with it. Most courageous time is looking for an answer to my young sister's question, Do you think I'm going to die?" She had leukemia, she moved on to her next journey at 15.

Kris Cahill said...

Irene, Chris, and Artful Eye, Many thanks for contributing to this discussion.

To all of you, I have no doubt that each and every one of you is courageous, and I am thrilled to be in such amazing company. Thank you!

dianeclancy said...

Hi Kris,

I agree about needing to be real. I find I often need to recreate boundaries ... with others ... to be able to be real.

I am sensitive enough that I need space to be me!

Thanks for a great post!

~ Diane Clancy