According to Seth Godin, “art” is a gift that you give to someone that causes something in them to change. An artist, therefore is someone with the ability and willingness to create such a gift. An artist actively seeks not only to share part of himself, but he does it with a purpose. An artist wants to share his own emotions, but if these do not have an effect on others, it is nothing more than yelling in the proverbial forest where no one can hear the sound of a tree falling. It is only talking to hear himself talk. While this can be therapeutic, it is narcissistic and is not art. Art must be received by others if it is to be called art.
Seth Godin wrote about this in his book Linchpin, and while the book’s organization is not very good, the content resonated with me like few other books have (Shop Class as Soulcraft is another recent read that I would recommend). In fact the book gave me the encouragement to start this blog. I know that the blog has a long way to go before it is where I want it to be, but this is going to be one of the mediums I use for my art. For now, I want to use it to give you a better feel for what China is like (and later, wherever I land). Maybe it will help you see something in a different light. I hope it at least makes you laugh once in a while. Whatever it ends up being, I assure you that it will continue to grow and change. Norman Bodek, a friend and philosopher (among other things), always says that “all we can do is put our energy into something and see where it takes us. the most important thing is to keep growing.” And so I grow, as does this blog.
Art is not confined to poetry, painting or playing music. Some people create art by giving great customer service to someone who doesn’t deserve it. I know many baristas that know their customers’ names and preferred drinks, and they can have their customers’ drinks waiting for them by the time they get to the counter. The baristas do this when they take the time to connect with their customers. These baristas are artists. They create a human connection that makes us want to come back to their place.
Is there someone at your work who knows how to keep everything running smoothly, even when it seems like things are about to spin out of control? That person is an artist. The clerk at Safeway with the hands that seem to fly as she checks your groceries, helping you get through that boring line more quickly? Artist. The mechanics who can seem to fix anything (e.g., my father and brother)? Artists. Winston Churchill, raging against Hitler in front of the British Parliament, urging England to act, declaring pointedly that “Hitler is a monster of wickedness, insatiable in his lust for blood and plunder”? Artist. Kobe Bryant, love him or hate him, is an artist too.
I hope you get my point. Art is more than what we see in museums or hear in concert halls, even though these give us great examples of what art can be. If you watch the Weezer video that I posted earlier (here) again, pay special attention to the interaction between Rivers Cuomo and Sara Bareilles. They are absolutely, without question, loving what they are doing. The joy is evident on their faces and in their singing. That is art. It is so much deeper than just the music. It is hard for me to take my eyes off of them because they are singing with such joy and passion. Art like this demands your attention, and to produce great art, you have to invest your own emotional energy into what you do. If you bring passion to something, even something as boring as pushing papers all day, you can be an artist. I plan to revisit this topic in the future, because I am trying to figure out how to become an artist. Until then, be passionate, and good day.