Montage of Heck.
Have you ever looked around the world at which we live in and said to yourself, “There's a lot of crap out there.” You have? Good, I thought I was alone! I am drawn to anything creative. Books, movies, music, art, could be how creative you are at folding your clothes, if it is done with purpose and intent to create something that no one has before, then I'm on your side. This world is filled with infinite forms of expression unique to each person's talent and approach, yet most of the time all I see are sheep following each other around doing diluted, poorly imitated versions of what came before. I was watching Montage of Heck last weekend and it transposed me back to being seventeen years old and having a real DIY ethic for rock n roll. It's a documentary that looks at the life of Kurt Cobain in a way no one outside of Nirvana ever truly saw, until now. It's jarring and brilliant! Any-who, the ethos of that band, and most of the great bands from that era, was to jump in a van, tour the country for no money, and write amazing songs. Simple. Purity of intent over everything else. These guys had no idea what was around the corner or even where the next meal or gas money was coming from. And what did they do? They changed the world, that's what. What followed was a veritable plethora of band-wagon jumping groups trying to look and sound exactly like Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Grunge fashion hit the walkways of every major catwalk in the world so you too could spend a thousand dollars on a shirt that every logger in Aberdeen, WA, bought for a couple of $. I truly feel that by sacrificing one's original voice in place of trying to be like another, the gift is lost. But hey, who wants to toil over something original, to live it and breathe it for months or years on end, to be driven to the point of delusion and obsession in search of the truth? Not caring or being a shill in the corporate machine or whatever, makes it real easy to sleep at night. Why? Because you're not suffering for your art. Real, meaningful art comes from pain and suffering. Yeah, it sucks to care and be deeply invested sometimes. It can leave you feeling that you are the only authentic voice in an ocean of noise. I have to constantly drown out the racket and take time in nature to just be tuned into my own thoughts. I'm not just taking a walk in the woods to smell the flowers. I am looking for a deep and meaningful connection to the earth. To feel the dirt on the forest floor. To closely observe the insects and their brilliant design.
I read a few great snippets of the book, The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators and I am going to pick up a copy of ASAP. It was written by a guy called Michael Gungor, a well-known musician in Christian circles. Except, unlike a lot of Christian artists who are predictable and safe, this guy has original ideas spewing out of him. Lots of people don't agree with him which just makes him all the more relevant in my eyes. He wrote ~
Art matters. It is not simply a leisure activity for the privileged or a hobby for the eccentric. It is a practical good for the world. The work of the artist is an expression of hope - it is homage to the value of human life, and it is vital to society. Art is a sacred expression of human creativity that shares the same ontological ground as all human work. Art, along with all work is the ordering of creation toward the intention of the creator.
Of course art matters. Let me use this analogy, it's like you have to choose between two movies. One theatre is showing The Fast and the Furious, the other is showing Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. The former is what I would call a chewing gum movie—not much mental effort required and you can leave your brain at home, the latter is more like foie gras. Chewing gum is fine, we all need a little of it from time to time, but it ain't gonna fill ya. The foie gras on the other hand takes time to make and is a refined taste. It must be eaten slowly and appreciatively, not spread on crackers like it's pâté. Yes, The Tree of Life is more difficult to digest as far as movie-going experiences are concerned, but it makes you look inside yourself and ask the difficult questions. That is art's job! We have been robbed by a culture which tells us that mediocrity is not only tolerated, but celebrated! I love that line in Whiplash where the character played by J.K. Simmons says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job.'”
Sometimes you have to dig deep in the reserves and find what's at the bottom of the barrel, to stay up until the wee hours of the morning going over something again and again until it's just how you envisioned it. Some people don't get why I'll spend 45 minutes on one sentence of a book in the editing process, “you wouldn't know it,” they tell me after reading over it. Yah, well I know it. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how state-of-the-art your Mac, guitar, camera, or painting studio is. These things usually hinder creativity more than help it. You can change the world with a napkin doodle. Be encouraged, and be daring.