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