First, I think, ‘wow, look at all I’ve accomplished at only twenty-one’. A very humble thought.
Second, I think, ‘wow, I’m already twenty-one, and I haven’t done anything worth while’.
This, I believe, is the heart of the aspiring artist.
Now most people may look at the two thought quotations above and very quickly discern that the thinker is crazy. But if they were to take a moment and dig deep into the memories of their past, as well as into the aspirations of their future, they would see that they live their lives from within the same tension.
This tension, I believe, is a necessary one. Artists are addicted to dreaming. We visualize entire scenarios, sculptures, pictures, stories, tales, fables, photographs, autographs, buildings, way before they are even a possibility.
In a world that is saturated with non-dreamers who are constantly saying, ‘Be realistic. Look at the economy.’ Both artists and leaders are saying, ‘Screw the economy, I got a vision that’s gonna rock this world’. These are the crazy folk among us, artists, and leaders. So if you are a leader in the arts, look out, cause you’ve doubled up and are probably a dream cokehead. But unlike actual cokeheads, the world needs more dream addicts.
To return to the tension we spoke of before. An artist, in order to be fully present in the present, must always remember and be satisfied with their past work, while maintaining a righteous frustration at their lack of future work. This is the only way to create in the moment.
We must always remember where we came from. The creative building blocks from which our talents were birthed are the very foundation for our earth changing visions. And to forget about them, or to be unsatisfied with them is to either forget the past, and therefore repeat it’s mistakes, or to be living in the past, and therefore be unable to move into the future. We must be at peace with our past mistakes, as well as past successes as an artist in order to create in the present.
This peace in the past acts as an opposing force to the wild tidal wave of future aspirations, in order to achieve balance in our artistic lives.
The future is as uncertain as the ocean, and dreamers like artists are often drawn into the most dangerous of waters because as we know, the greater the storm, the greater the catch. The future ahead of us can be daunting when we look at our list of life goals and realize that there are so many that we have yet even begun to explore. And yet it is this uncertainty, fear, and adversity that spurs the artistic leader forward into the future, and therefore, into greatness. The storm clouds ahead do not turn us around, but instead act as a welcome sign drawing us into the next great idea to change our culture.
It is the artists who truly shape the culture. Politicians shape the law and geography, businessmen shape the economy, but artists shape how we live within the law, geography, and economy.
Balance is not always necessary in the life of an artist. But it is certainly a starting place from which the begin creating. Tension is left to be managed, rather than resolved. The artist who can find it within themselves to live in the tension of being satisfied with the past, and completely unsatisfied with the future, will truly learn how to live in the present. For as Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Chris Jesus.” Philippians 3:12.