Learning Craft (early 20’s)
Photo by Nadia Caffesse
It takes sacrifice for an artist to create because of the time involved in an activity that, for a while, doesn’t generate income. There’s the competitive nature of the western world combined with the need to practice, some say, over 10,000 hours in order to master a craft. All that time spent practicing makes it impossible to take a career path that quickly leads to financial prosperity because getting paid well leaves no time for practice. This makes the artist more vulnerable to financial hardship which worsens the problem when those who don’t understand art choose to fall back on the incompatible paradigm of conventional wisdom and make capricious remarks like, “if you worked harder, you’d be more successful”. This type of comment is a hackneyed expression of the modernist age. It displays a positivistic thought paradigm, standard for the last 140 years when all of humanity believed that everything real could be deciphered and reduced to a mathematical formula. Being blessed enough to have received two bachelor of science degrees in communications from a reputable University, I can vouch for the existence of areas of science that don’t follow the conventional modernist paradigm. This type of science is called “human sciences” contrasted with the conventional type that fits into the classification of natural sciences. For those who are primarily scientific in their thought process and are acquainted with an artist for whom they sincerely want to be a positive influence, I suggest we approach them using the ways expounded by the human sciences which describes reality just fine without formulas. Rather it cites studies and dialogues that are just as old as modern natural sciences, replete with scientific, yet non-positive results and paradoxes. I think it’s hard for all of us, in our modernist traditions, to look at the world this way because it’s so alternative, unfamiliar, and because paradoxes lead to reliance on faith in our daily lives (Scary). The conventional wisdom feels safe because it always reconciles everything and leaves us believing that we’ve solved the worlds problems which means that those who suffer, do so because they haven’t “gotten with the program”. Now let’s take a time out to pat ourselves on the back….
Making “The Land”
I remember in high school the most common definition of home was, “where you hang your hat“, probably because it’s a cliché but also because, one time, I heard it contrasted with another definition. A friend’s dad proposed that home is “where your family is”. From different perspectives, I guess they both work because if challenged to complete this sentence: “I’m at home when________.” the blank is usually filled with something that makes us comfortable. For most of us that’s a combination of 1) our inner voice which tells us where we’re comfortable (nature) and 2) the external influences such as family & traditions (nurture). The two sides, for me, co-existed in my youth with no problem, so how is it that they can so easily get separated just because we grew up? When leaving home, I immediately set out to learn wisdom by living in the real world combined with University learning, two different experiences linked on a single path which is followed through the use of free will guided by the inner voice. Apparently, there is a conflict that can happen when we try to follow our inner voice because we risk straying to far from the convention which is circumscribed by our traditions. Sometimes the tradition will try to pull you back in suspecting that you’ve gone astray when actually you are more in tune with reality than ever before. Isn’t it a common belief that this path of learning makes you more capable rather than less? Wasn’t that the whole point to begin with? Going to college, or striking out for California (or wherever) to “make it”. And, if so, why is it that the tradition sometimes can’t validate the path and the recently embarked youth is viewed by the tradition as not intrepid but more wayward…the prodigal son. Maybe because this explanation is familiar?
Making “The Land”
Like a lot of people throughout history, I moved away from my original “home” to pursue education and a career. For me, an artistic craft came along with my general goal of making it. In the years since, I’ve found out that being in tune with the artistic side of the universe means being out of tune with everything else. I was talking with a friend not to long ago and I struggled to come up with the words to explain (and also understand) some relationship problems that have plagued my family over several generations; problems that revolve around this discord between inner voice and tradition. I finally had to concede and resort to a slightly insipid statement. “Creative people are just different”, I said. Maybe, what I meant was that these differences of perspective and social needs, between artists and others creates a clash between the traditional “home” and the inner voice that leads us to be “at home” when we’re living into our creative personality by practicing our craft.
Grandpa (early 20’s) practicing craft in L.A. (Circa 1930’s)
I’ve had lots of jobs in my life. I’ve been a lumber-jack (paid by the cord), food server (paid hourly + tips), a writer/filmmaker (not paid) and a an outside salesman (paid 100% on commission). Each of these jobs take a different skill set and thought paradigms that vary on a spectrum that ranges from mathematical to creative. Even though I was a creative kid who sucked at math (I dropped algebra three times in junior college), I was able to sustain a job in sales (which in my youth was my most hated prospective career path). So, if a post-modern mind such as mine can do sales, then maybe the people whose comfort zone is solving the worlds problems, one positivistic formula at a time, ALSO have a creative side. If so, then it stands to reason that even these people will be more “at home” by tapping into it without throwing all of modern society out of balance. If we were able to change our conventional perspective to be more post-modern and allow for a few paradoxes, then we might be able to get the hat, the family and our inner voice to coexist all under the same roof in spite of the fact that we’ve all grown up.
Church Choir (age 5) – Mom thought I might follow in Grandpa’s footsteps
At a minimum, this might lead to support for a social system that’s more friendly towards human beings rather than one ruled by formulas which, really… is the stuff of machines.
I’d call a place like that home.