I have often asked, of specific people, and of the world, through social media, “How do people cope with the world if they aren’t artists?”
It is a genuine question, as my response to atrocity and cruelty and everyday, ordinary nastiness is generally to shut myself away and work.
Shutting myself away is important. It sort of keeps me safe… (can of worms in itself)
Yesterday I told Facebook I was going away for a while. Those of you that know me as the Social Media Whore will be astonished. But I can’t cope with it. I am emotionally unable to cope with the shit-storm of reaction to the awful attacks that happened in Paris. Not least because there’s this addendum of “oh, yeah, and Beirut, oh yeah, and Baghdad…” I find I am even troubled by people turning their profile pictures to the eiffel tower version of the CND logo. I am troubled that some people don’t know of its true, very specific, significance and call it “the peace sign”. I am troubled by the washing of profile pictures with the tricolour of France, as if this protest only matters now it is happening in Western Europe… Of course I have sympathy, of course I think it is a terrible terrible thing that these very few people have done to so many people. Of course, of course, of course…
But cruelty and atrocity happen every day all over the world. Everywhere, every day. I can’t watch the news, I can’t read the papers. I have not done so for many years now. I am uninformed, as opposed to misinformed. The media, ruled by very few, with a very self-interested agenda, are skewing, misinforming, misleading, manipulating. I have chosen to be uninformed. I am deliberately naïve. I am purposely idealist.
I am cloistered. My world shrinks while I process and deal with these things. My work is about people, and their affect on each other. I choose to look upon this from a positive angle. I could stitch and sing with blood and hatred. But I don’t think I would survive very long. I choose to look upon the ordinary, the loving, the sympathetic, the kindness, the lasting effects of love. Small amounts of unmeasurable kindness have huge unmeasurable effects.
One of my songwriting collaborators (The Pianist) has taken himself, his van, a load of materials, and his useful practical skills to Calais to help build shelters for refugees before the winter sets in. A week out of his life to take action over injustice and cruelty. The practicality might be measurable, but the effects of this kindness boundless.
Another wrote a song about worn out shoes. Not a practical task, no. But hugely important. An unmeasurable thing. One song among so many. But this Bass Player is out there all the time, singing the song, or supporting others to sing their songs. He is ubiquitous around here, supports so many other bands, writers and musicians. What he provides is soul food. He makes life magical. Human. There is a sublime ordinariness about him. I’m picking on him as a representative of the artists and musicians who go out and do it…
Art and music are ever present. In Paris galleries, and in the makeshift camps of Calais, and in the worst places humans exist. We strive for the pinnacle of philosophy and feed each other’s souls. ART IS IMPORTANT…
So what do I do? I shut myself away. That seems no longer enough. So now what do I do to make sense of the world that will also spread a bit of love and kindness? My work lies packed in boxes for nobody to see.
I may have to make changes… but how to do that while protecting my emotional strength and mental health?