I’m sitting here in California listening to some rather grim “movie music” on Vermont Public Radio and wondering what I should write about. I thought about writing again about the artist and his/her audience. Should the unpublished writer, the ungalleried artist, the composer whose music mostly remains in her head and not performed, be dismayed, and how dismayed? My friend, Sally, says:
While it is clear that the desire to create will always intersect with the desire to be received, I am lucky because I realize that, in the words of the immortal Margaret Cho, “I’m the one I want.”
Of course, that’s true. My take on what Sally said: If I don’t quite like what I write, I can hardly expect others to. Given that, I think I’ll just keep on trying, at least until I really, really like something.
All this makes me think more about creativity in our time. I have chosen on Late Fruit to not comment about contemporary politics because so many people do, and many of them are wonderful to read. (See, for example, the blog Drinks Before Dinner, which is funny and extraordinarily acute about our national politics.) The problem is that our times are so disconcerting, it’s sometimes hard to focus on anything else. Perhaps the most distressing thing to me in a world where there are so many distressing things, is that lies (most of them patently absurd) are being bantered about and believed by thousands of people. Truth has gone abegging.
I’ve always thought that truth was pretty relative anyway. But I never thought it was something to be made up out of whole cloth. I never would have believed that a falsehood repeated often enough gains respectability and becomes the truth for thousands. That the media and some politicians take it to be, simply, a view from another perspective, and give it equal time. So that we find debates about a “monster” mosque dominating the news because, as everybody knows, a fair media must hear arguments on all sides.
I know that as a child of the fifties and sixties, I’ve been panicky about the future of the nation and the world many times before. In the early sixties, I was certain that nuclear holocaust was inevitable. I’ve worried about the influence of large corporations and the melting of the polar icecap for years. Is it just my age that makes me find what’s happening to truth today so terribly frightening? That it sometimes feels as if the rug were being jerked out from beneath our collective feet?
I know one thing. Truth is at the heart of art, no matter what form it takes, and however it is to be determined. That means to me that artists must take on the challenge of exploring, expressing it, and even defining it.
Another friend of mine once said, quoting someone famous, “Lies are the glue that holds civilization together.” Maybe so. But, on the other hand, there can’t be lies if there’s no truth. Without truth, we’ll be left with some hollowed out spectre of reality. So we’d better damn well get hold of it and hang on for dear life.