All people have poetry in their hearts, and it is necessary for them, as much as possible, to express their feelings.
– Rabindranath Tagore
Art is more than pen to paper, paint brush to canvas, or lips to instrument. Art is the physical manifestation of the relationship you have with yourself. Art is devotion. Art is healing.
For years, as a designer, I have stealthily removed age from a man’s face and inches from a woman’s body. I’ve made a struggling startup look like a multi-million dollar company. I’ve transformed spaces into a menagerie of the senses. As a writer and poet, I’ve slain hearts and taken minds on epic adventures, so “they” say. The world has credited me as an artist, but until recently I never did.
So what changed? Business.
Art and Business Become One
I, like so many artists, assumed and surrendered to the misperception that art was something I’d have to do on the side. Making a living wasn’t possible through art alone, and worse yet, could sully this sacred endeavor. The infection of a “starving artist,” runs deep.
A few years back when we started BoominGroup that was also my mindset. I thought that I’d put art on the shelf for a while. This new business genuinely interested me, I was good at it, it would create positive impact and I believed it would eventually lead to a windfall that would beget a leisurely, romanticized life as a full-time artist (Picture waking up well after the sun has taken his seat, meditating, sauntering, perhaps a massage and then sitting at a writing desk overlooking the great Pacific – no bills, no email, no crotchety people).
The trouble with that mindset is that art can’t be put on a shelf, and art is most certainly not romantic. It torments you until you pay attention to what is fervently yearning for expression. The same is true of business. Pay attention, or die.
Ah! Beloved torment. The muse of masterpieces!
The polarity of the two separate worlds I had created in my mind played tug-of- war. The physical manifestation of this epic contest was anxiety, insecurity, doubt, and fatigue – a nagging disappointment that I was working, working, working and going absolutely nowhere.
Within the seemingly aimless and painful venture, something beautiful began to unfold. I used art to make sense of the trials of business and business to make sense of the trials of art. I used art and business to make sense of life, most importantly to make sense of myself. Over time, through the rigor of self-inquiry and self-confrontation, through reading the words and following the teachings and processes of great artists and business people (including the teammates sitting right next to me), the separate worlds became one.
Art is Devotion to Unity
I am reminded of John Muir’s words,
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
This experience of unity leads me to finally acknowledge, that I am indeed an artist, and so is everybody else. Art is devotion to unity. Have you seen a software developer scour thousands of lines of code to ensure its elegance and fluid mechanics or a financier architect the money flow within an ecosystem to ensure its expansion and the benefit of each of its individual parts? Have you seen a project manager weave his threads into an intricate and delicate tapestry?
Everybody is an artist because everybody has the capacity to plunge the midnight blue abyss of his or her inner world and bring to the surface a treasure of expression. The form doesn’t matter – poem, painting, opus, lines of code, financial projections, or implementations plans – the deeper the descent into one’s self the greater the beauty and power of the piece.
I am not saying there isn’t such a thing as “good” art. There is “good” art, measured by the rigor and practice of the person engaged in the inner dive.
Can you get naked in public, bare the depths of your soul and suffering, face what’s ugly about you, see it as beautiful and love yourself anyway? Can you create a channel that beckons people towards their own depths, their own beauty, and therefore their own capacity to heal and flourish? Can you make time to feel?
The Alchemy of the Artist
I remember receiving two letters of appreciation -one, from the mother of a young woman contemplating suicide, the other from a wife who was losing her husband to Alzheimer’s.
The young woman read a poem and hope sparked within her, she decided to stay here and brave her world. The wife read a poem and felt that her suffering was understood, she felt compassion flow in her world.
While I am deeply touched, I also believe this is the alchemy of the artist. How many times has someone’s work pierced my limited perceptions? How many times has someone’s work lifted me out of my own dark night of the soul?
Find the Artist in You
I write the poems with the intention of understanding and knowing myself better. What follows, through no doing or action of my own, are openings and invitations for anyone to do the same. When we embrace the artist in us, we naturally spark healing and therefore wholeness. We build bridges. We uphold unity. This is the role of the artist within.
If you are curious about meeting the artist in you, here is an article where I outline the five steps I take to write a poem that may work for you (regardless of what you may think of your artistic abilities).
This process may happen over 6 months, or it may happen over 6 seconds. The point is to continuously engage and see what happens. I invite you to try it, evolve it, revise it, or make up your own all together. Find the artist in you.