Still life with driftwood, skull, pottery and postcards of a Greek amphora and a painting by Ragnheidur Jonsdottir Ream. pen and ink.
This week, I got back to work. I'm still not back at my normal level of productivity, and I'm still feeling distracted by the news. But I'm working hard on a new writing project, doing Phoenicia's tax accounting, promoting the new books -- and I've been drawing.
It's difficult, isn't it? But the fact is that the longer we let ourselves and our work be derailed by politics, and the more we spin and spin on social media, the more the opposition has us right where it wants us. Without national organizations supporting the arts and humanities, keeping culture alive is going to be the responsibility of all of us, working both individually and collectively. That's no different from what the majority of us have been doing anyway -- most of us have not been funded by those organizations. And in some ways, adversity has the capacity to makes the arts, and artists, grow stronger.
Two pieces of driftwood and a Chinese dish. Charcoal.
A suggestion: go read some Russian poetry around the time of Stalin's rise to power. Read some Polish post-WWII poetry. If you want to know what white privilege is, reflect on the fact that you're upset about losing NPR, while many of your colleagues of color have been dealing with and writing about oppression, violence, loss, walls and the lack of a voice for centuries. I don't have much patience with the complaints and outrage of privileged liberals like myself (well, to be fair, I am more of a radical leftie), and frankly most of our whining is of the shared-outrage-and-ridicule variety, which doesn't do any good except to make us feel better in that moment, in a way that smacks of high school cliques. We need to get on with it: doing our work to the best of our ability, figuring out new paths and strategies, and showing up strongly for our colleagues and friends who don't have the privilege, influence, safety or respect that we do, and are in much greater danger.
Maybe we don't know what to write or say or paint yet, in this new climate where we find ourselves. That's OK. Practice. Just get back at it. I see it like Zen calligraphy or archery: when we draw, or write a poem every day, or practice our instrument, we are preparing ourselves and honing our technique, so that when the moment comes to express ourselves, we will be ready with words or images that are true and sharp. But even more than that, we're talking about being the people we're meant to be, in spite of what is going on. Each of us needs to do whatever is necessary to be strong enough inside to get through this without losing ourselves, our vision, or our love of humanity and what is most noble about it. We have to be able to say, with our actual actions and the examples of our lives, that it is impossible to suppress or destroy the best parts of the human spirit.
There's a reason why that Greek vase, painted by the master Exekias in the 5th C BC, about a story written several centuries before that, has been preserved throughout 2500 years (it's now in the Vatican Museum) -- and there's a reason why I have an image of it on my desk right now.
So think about it: what do you feel like you need? What's keeping you from your work? And let's talk about it and help each other.