Here's where I'm coming from: For nearly forty years, I've been a singer, writer, and teacher of those arts. Years ago, I began to collaborate with therapists. We wanted to acknowledge and encourage the inter-weaving of art, life, and community. Together we asked an ancient philosophical question: What is the artful life? This question slowly acquired a modern form: What fundamentally human arts and practices might we re-claim from industry and experts? And which particular arts might suit and temper each one of us? All of this asking led to one of the astonishments of my career:
Given a few simple principles, any ordinary person, making ordinary gestures, in an ordinary setting, can reveal extraordinary beauty.
Here's what's not necessary: advanced degrees, publishers, spotlights, branding, promoters, critics, electrical outlets, microphones, stuff...
Here's what is: people; a few timeless principles; simple ground rules, ways to slow time down...
Now, for most of human history, this wasn't news. Only recently have humans turned the arts of entertainment and psychological healing into industries - great big things that happen outside of ourselves and require sums of money. In these days of late capitalism, we are enticed to buy but not make; to listen but not sing; to watch but not participate. My knowledge of the hidden capacities inside each one of us is
radical knowledge. When I added the word "activist" to my biography, I heard the key turn in the lock.
Here are some questions I've asked myself this year. And, for now, here are my answers, distilled:
So, do I want to be a therapist after all?
No. I'm too interested in the relationships between art, healing, and community. Plus, wouldn't it be cool if we could broaden our definition of health to include: the capacity to make a creative response?
And isn't it so that there will never be enough psychotherapists in all the world to fix what ails us?
I imagine instead: a world of citizen-artists.
What helps people to make a creative response?
Diving beneath conversational conventions
What matters, after forty years?
Freedom from jargon
What keeps things simple?
Structure and spontaneity in right measure
Safe places for sorting ourselves out