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Monday, March 8, 2010

Oh My Art I Vow to Thee: A Promise You Want to Keep

I’m going to see Ravi Shankar in concert (check out this Youtube video to hear this amazing man play) in a couple of weeks. It’s a birthday gift from my partner. Last year we saw Leonard Cohen. Yes, I know, I am very lucky: I may not go to many concerts, but when I do, they are the biggies. And I am grateful for the chance to see these extraordinary people.

So, because Ravi Shankar is coming up, my eyes are open for anything in the media about him. Sure enough, just this last weekend there was a profile piece in the paper. It’s a fascinating story, his life. But what really caught my eye was Mr Shankar’s final comment to the interviewer as he left the room. His remark was about his one regret in life:

This, mind you, from a genius who is about to turn 90 and who has been performing, writing and composing since he was in his 20s. And before that, he was an accomplished dancer. His creative output, his gifts to the world, put most of us so-called creatives to shame.
‘I wish I had been more creative. My mind is always working on new ideas. I wish I had done more.’

But, of course, any creative person will always think they have never done enough; there are always ideas that don’t find their way into the light of day. And if that’s the feeling people like Shankar have who never stop creating, what does it say about those of us who aren’t quite as productive? What about all the time we spend complaining along the lines of, ‘I can’t write/I’m blocked/the words won’t come/blah blah blah.

Well, it does feel like blah blah doesn’t it? Here we are literate, full of ideas and with the resources to express them (ie pen, pencil, computer ...), and still we go on about how hard it all is. Well, let me say that from now on, I am going to spend a lot less time complaining about not being able to create, and a lot more time on actually creating—or at the very least focusing on the creative process whatever that might entail.

Now, I know what you are thinking; it’s not always so easy, creativity isn’t a tap you can just turn on and off at will. Well, that may be true, but I wonder what would happen if we really make an effort to devote ourselves to our art/craft/whatever we call it? We might still be blocked, we might still have trouble translating our ideas into words or pictures (or whatever we do), but at least we are going to be on the right track. We will be in the zone, as they say.

Not only that, but we will have no cause to regret not being creative. Of course, I think what Mr Shankar is really saying is that he hasn’t had enough time to manifest all the creative ideas he’s had. And it is certain for most of us that this will always be the case. But if we devote our lives to our art (and that means spending time thinking, reflecting, observing, being - all the things creative people do to live a creative life, even if it's not actaully 'creating'), then what we are meant to produce, we will. Simple as that really. Or at least I am thinking it is simple.

I have on my wall a mandala I coloured in with pretty colour pencils. I’ve made a kind of collage of it with a few bits and pieces stuck on (I’m a word person really, not so hot with the old visual arts thing). Across the bottom of this ‘creation’ I have written:

Oh My Art, I Vow to Thee

And I try to honour that vow, every day.

1 comment:

  1. I heard Ravi Shankar play a 4 hour concert in Lincoln Center years ago with a friend. It was his last night of a concert tour. The management has told me that I can take my time, tonight," he announced. "Can you?"

    It was absolutely amazing. After that many hours the music takes you away. I am sure you will have a wonderful time.


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