by Rae Strozzo
In the midst of struggle, creativity is where hope finds vision.
We are in need of creativity and compassion in this moment. This is a love letter to art and creativity that is so essential to all of us. Sometimes love is hard to see, and context is everything. So first – the bad news.
The current political moment seems so polarized and almost surreal. We are at war now. The U.S. is fighting itself as it has been since its creation but with a scary vigor. Fear seems to trump so much of what is good in the world if we spend our time on Facebook or watch more than 10 minutes of the news. Shuffling through the lies to try and sort out what might be true feels like the new daily battle.
The U.S. is fighting and exploiting other countries for the needs and greed of a few and the government and pop culture feeds it back to us as nationalism and what a “great nation” does for freedom. All the while internally African American churches burn, Jewish community centers deal with bomb threats, and our Muslim brothers and sisters try to cope with threats, acts of violence and destroyed property. Transpeople of color are murdered, gender expansive people commit and attempt suicide at astoundingly high rates, and lgbtq youth are homeless at much higher rates than their straight and cis gender peers.
Walls are built to make and keep people illegal and separate, and families fear being broken up by immigration sweeps. Our country incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and that is also to make a buck at the expense of those people’s lives and the lives of their families – most of whom are people of color. Many of our neighbors grow up trapped in poverty and in systems of oppression that get labeled welfare, child protective services, and the mental health care system and so on, but work against the people they are created to help and against the people who work in those systems who want to help.
Many ignore these problems and systems, and we step past the oppression because it is as subtle as “professionalism” in a workplace that really just says look/be whiter. Or we say we are moving to a better neighborhood or sending our kids to better schools without seeing that those are whiter neighborhoods and whiter schools. We live in “Right to Work States” that really say it’s okay not hire people who aren’t white enough, straight enough, gender conforming enough, Christian enough because as long as we don’t say it, we haven’t done anything wrong.
Now is a time when a college education is so expensive only the most privileged can have it without the reality of mountainous debt and where public education is stifled by our system of lack. We live in a time where art and music struggle to find access points to most people’s lives and where the funding for those things are viewed as unimportant and stripped away. We are taught to blame the poor rather than help. We are taught to walk away from people who don’t see things the way that we do. We are taught that tough love is about shunning people from families, from churches, from communities, so that somehow they will want to come back to us, but in the way we want them and not in the way that the universe created them.
We use our limited understanding of creativity to control other people. We use our limited understanding of creativity for greed. Succumbing to those same limits causes us to destroy our planet. Our creativity is limited by what we think we know and it is wasted on anger, fear, destruction, and an illusion of control. We stifle vulnerability because we mistaken it for weakness rather than a place where new ideas are born. We are strapped down by prejudice and are unable in those moments to be our fully connected and creative selves. Empire wants us to die for lack of imagination. White supremacy wants us to hold it up out of that same lack of imagination.
That is a lot, especially acknowledging that it isn’t even close to giving voice to all of what is up in the world right now.
But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. I firmly believe this. All of these situations are things that were set in motion by people. Logic suggests that if people created it, then people can also dismantle it. So there is hope. If we can be vulnerable enough to hope, then we have a place to start to vision something different, and that means creativity can come back to us and with its divine purpose intact.
Hope is where real creativity comes in. Creativity, as it meets compassion, produces healing and love. This is where the arts are a healing force. Creativity as it is connected to love gives us the capacity for participation in beauty. It is the ability to turn the wound into a foundation for solidarity and into an olive branch for the “other side.”
As it is said, those with the capacity for great anger hold the capacity for great gentleness. So too those with great creative power towards greed hold that power for generosity. Those with great creative power toward destruction also hold great power for creation. All of us hold creative power. It is the link that bonds all of us to each other and to the universe. Creativity is what makes us human. It isn’t just a painter or a musician who holds creativity. Creativity is our mirror of the universe. It is our tether to the divine.
Artists are a part of the priesthood of the creative and have a connection to the creative energy of the universe. When artists share their work, they open that connection to and establish that link for others.
The creative process and the artistic result aren’t just for the artist. Art is about completing a cycle and about helping other people and the culture it is a part of change, grow, and evolve. Art is a sacred reminder that we are ALL part of the creative flow of the universe. That is its purpose. Art reminds people that they have things to express and to express them. Creative expression is divine language no matter how it is spoken.
The teacher who makes a place for a struggling kid to learn because they take the time to rethink how they teach is a part of that energy. The police officer who figures out how to stop violence without using it has that energy. The activist who rallies support while seeing the other side as people and not just an opposing force is a part of this creative energy too.
These are just examples. All of us have a link to what makes us our best selves. That is our link to the creative energy of the universe. We have been given this gift. But it isn’t about our minds and not even about our skill sets. It’s about our willingness to get vulnerable and listen to what our higher selves are telling us. To listen to what our souls are telling us. To listen to what the universe is telling us.
The path that is uniquely ours in life is lit by love and compassion as motive. Come to life with love and compassion and the steps to take become real. The creativity to make things happen in our lives and in the lives of others becomes real. Art is made in song, in paint, in photograph, and in every kind word, in every loving action. Listening to the creative energy of the universe and using that energy for kindness and compassion can heal a lifetime of wounds.
True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art says, “Thinking goes as far as the mind understands. Then what? Art.”
Change for the good of all goes only as far as our ability to create compassion. Then what? Art.