Thursday, April 17, 2008

Discovering a Sense of Authenticity - Integrity


Cameron states, “What if we experiment with the idea that creativity is a spiritual and not an intellectual transaction? Not so long ago, cathedrals were built for the honor and glory of God. Art and artistry were routinely put to the service of higher realms. Higher realms were routinely credited for the worldly successes of creators.

A sense of rightness will most usually mean all’s well. A sense of wrongness will also usually mean something is wrong. Listening to such gut feelings is always worth the time and trouble it takes. When we let God be God and work through us, we experience both a sense of serenity and excitement. We experience integrity – which comes from the root word ‘integer,’ meaning ‘whole’ unfragmented by doubt or discomfort. When we experience a sense of oneness with God, ourselves, and our fellows, we can safely know we are in our integrity.

If this language sounds ‘serious’ or spiritual,’ so is the matter at hand. ‘Know thyself,’ the Greeks inscribed above their temple door. As artists, we must take this to heart, working to express our inner imperatives and not just filling the form provided by the marketplace. Settling for convention over authentic self-expression, we are falling, in the biblical phrase, for false gods. In the long run, this works out no better for us as artists than it did for those worshiping the golden calf. The ‘market’ is the golden calf. When we worship it, we deaden our souls, risking, over time, our attunement to the work that would move through us. Commerce has its place, but that place is not first.”

If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people. ~ Virginia Woolf

The author says, “As artists, we have a different kind of accountability than many people. What pays us and pays off in the long run is really the caliber of our work.

In cultures where creativity is embedded in the warp and woof of daily life, shyer souls may practice their creativity with more impunity. In this country, the artist is an endangered species. Grants are diminishing. Public appreciation is also more difficult to find. Too much power has gone into the hands of too few - reviewers stand in for viewers.”

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~ Erica Jong

“Fearing this process, fearing their capacity to survive it, many gifted artists allow discouragement to darken their creative landscape. Of course they do. They may lurk too long in the shadows because they lack support – the before, during, and after friends – to help them tolerate their turns center stage. Many public art situations are toxic to artists themselves. We learn to deal with them, but we do not do it easily. Just as the body must develop antibodies, so in our current culture must the artist’s soul. Not everyone can do this. Many excellent artists cannot.”

In her twenty five years of teaching, Julia Cameron says, “Working to unblock damaged artists, it is my experience that it is not that artists lack quality but that, as a culture, we lack sufficient quality of character to nurture and appreciate the artists among us. Until we fiercely advocate and nurture ourselves, we feel stifled. Until more of our reticent artists make more art, we risk continuing to believe the assessments of those who critique but do not create. The quality of our artists is not the true issue. The quality of our critical climate is. We do not have genuine receptivity to the arts.

The people who snort about there being a lack of quality in amateur art have not seen enough diamonds in the rough. They like to buy their art at Tiffany’s stamped with a brand name and someone else’s approval. They haven’t had the courage to walk through church to hear a beautiful, if untutored, soprano, and commit cash on the barrel for her education. They have not been in a school hallway or on a sidewalk and see a student sketch that caught them by the throat with its unexpected virtuosity – and inquired enough to know how they could help and support that young artist. It takes courage and heart to make art, and it takes courage and heart to support art makers.

Our culture diminishes both art and artists. Art is secular now, mere ornament, where once it was central to civilized life. Artists are seen as dispensable or, at best, marginal types, gifted perhaps, but mere filigree.”

Good art is a form of prayer. It’s a way to say what is not sayable. ~ Frederich Busch

“We have made such a spotlight-riddled, harrowing public spectacle of the arts in this country that many people with enormous talent quite sensibly choose to live outside the limelight.

In our culture, we must consciously build safe hatcheries for our art. We must find people and establish places that allow us to flourish. We must become creative about being creative.

Dreams become reality when we start to treat them as if they are real. When we stop postponing and evading them, and when we can answer ‘Today, I worked on my dream’ with a grounded specific.

Creativity isn’t something vague that we are going to do. It is something real that we actually do do. It is the refusal to sell ourselves short by shortchanging our artists with empty talk.

Often, we are afraid to try to make what we really want to make, we will say, ‘I can’t make that.’ The truth is, we could, but we are frightened to try: Not trying, we do not really know whether we could or couldn’t make our heart’s desire. Very often when we say ‘I couldn’t do that,’ we are again embracing an ideal of false independence, eschewing spiritual help. We are embracing an idea of God as a withholding God whose intentions for us are counter to our own dreams. Believing, even unconsciously, in such a toxic God, we do not see the Great Creator as a cocreator, a partner, in our dreams. Rather, we see God as a barrier, a withholding parent who denies our dreams. Most often, we are who denies them.

It is at this point that we must muster our integrity and be honest about what it is we really want. We must take the leap – or even the small hop – of faith that moves us slightly toward our true dream. This honest motion on our part is what triggers support for our authenticity – instead of support for a false self we can no longer comfortably inhabit.”

Surprise is where creativity comes in. ~ Ray Bradbury

“As we commit to our real dreams, we commit to ourselves. As we commit to ourselves, we also commit to trusting the power that created us. We are then aligning ourselves not with false gods but with the true power of the universe, the Great Creator through whose power all dreams are possible.”


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