I don’t often have epiphanies, or those liminal spiritual type moments that close in on out and expand you from the inside out. I suppose few of us have those often, and that might be a good thing.
A few years back, I was standing in MoMa. I was in a fine mood as a lovely walk was had to get to the museum. And I went to the top floor and turned the corner and saw. I saw. I felt hit in the stomach and my head was light and I started crying. I moved from painting to painting and I felt old and young at the same time. I saw this work. It was, you know, art. Like for real art. Art that was legend and it was all just there allowing us to see it. There in the museum, there in New York, this absolute real city, but this city of metaphors and fantasies and expectations and myths built up not only by myself (by the stories my mother told, by the visits previously, by the knowledge of the amazing writers and performers who’d built lives and legends from forever forward) but built up by culture it self. NEW YORK CITY. Wall Street. The Statue of Liberty. Movies. Broadway. Melting Pots. 9/11. People. History. A portal. Coming across the bridge or through the tunnel is like entering a book of fables, walking the paths of gods and goddesses of stage and script and canvas, knowing you are only retracing steps.
So I’m there in this chapter of the New York Story Book, called “Art” and the paintings are there in this museum, this bible, this temple (for that is what it is). There was Warhol and Kandinsky, and Van Gogh, and Modigliani, and Miro and Matisse and Gauguin, Lee Bontecou and honestly it was this section this time period that just floored me. Myths again, the myth of the artist, of the pained crazy fool in a studio, on a south sea island, in New York, in Paris, and then there were photos by women and women and women and Maya Deren, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman and photos of Martha Graham, and then even newer installations beautiful and incomprehensible of helicopters, of hay, of days of the week, of sound and sight and it just crushed me somehow that I was there actually seeing it, that it was there to be seen still, that they lived on that they were alive and beautiful and created beacons, beacons for all of us to see, understanding them wasn’t as important as just knowing that they were there.
And it crushed me that somehow I’d missed the boat, that I’d been too scared or too cautious to do that same thing, or not talented enough or talented enough but to insecure to believe that I could possibly create light that would shine for others, and instead was worn down with what the rest of us mortals have to deal with, covering myself up, selling myself out. Ego. Destructive.
And I cried in the museum and felt completely awake and like a fool and I started to see things clearly again after nearly a year of feeling blind. The crying part felt terribly ridiculous and entirely stereotypical though I am not one to weep, sober, at art (drunk at dance, yes), but what can one do.
It is all choices. The choice to be alone to be unencumbered to feel free, the choice to take on love and life and dishes and dirty clothes and jobs and weight. You can choose one or the other and there are consequences to both.
But I don’t think we have a choice about love.
(And lest I leave you all with the impression that I am talking about sexual or romantic love, that’s a part of it, but not all. Sex is easy, anyone can mate. Romance can be destructive like a fire, leaving people deeply hurt in it’s wake. Love, in the all encompassing way I mean here, is an entirely different thing sometimes. I’m talking about service, friendship, action, leadership, giving even when there is nothing to give, acting as a witness, creating, healing, being present for the other, even when there isn’t anything in it for you. I’m talking about Love as action and power and yielding and while sex and romance have a significant place in the greater body of Love, they are often overused as shorthand for all the rest of it).
Love only comes, in my opinion anyway, with connection. Love may lay a set of chains on our wrists, and that may not make us feel as though we can fly, but perhaps flight is overrated. We can be beacons to each other in our daily work and in our love, we can either make art while breaking the hearts of others, or denying intimacy, or we can make art of our love, of our mundane moments, of our relationships. We can sometimes do both I suppose, life is long and there is time for both.
Life is short.
I talk about love a great deal. I know I do, and I know I’ve failed at loving in important ways and I have been failed. With my mother and her family, with important people in my life, I’ve failed and been failed. I am guilty of many of the crimes I accuse my mother of, that’s for certain. I’ve not loved any of them enough, hidden myself away from the pain I’ve felt when I’ve not felt loved enough or in the ways I would prefer to be loved, maybe not even seeing their offers for what they were. I’ve loved some too much and gone to bat when the game was totally over. I’ve resisted being loved, being seen. I’ve failed and failed time and again. But really, love…or connection or friendship or intimacy however you call it…that’s kind of all humans have, isn’t it?
It’s why we build cities, it’s why we develop such bizarre rituals of joining and parting, dine together, sleep together, protect each other from wild animals, or windstorms or taxes or bad laws, take drugs together, drink and fuck and cry, seek each other even when we want to be alone, why we fuck things up so terribly when we are together, even maybe why we kill and war, because we want it so badly.
We are group animals with our consciousness trapped and isolated in our brains. We have nothing but the inside our silly minds and we feel terribly alone. We are alone. And love, even in moments, is a beacon that let’s us see even for the briefest time, that someone else is out there, alone, with us.
I read another book on the way to and from NY, In The City Of Shy Hunters, by Tom Spanbauer and a more perfect and tender/cruel portrait of the city I could not imagine. There are many refrains in the book, like a chorus, like a poem, and these two hit me precisely where I live;
“why do we live, except to love and remember those we love?”
“the hope of theater to lay bare the human heart.”
I don’t know, but it seems to be the truth to me and in many ways, they mean the same thing.
We make art to express all this. It’s why the artists made their art, they were real as anyone with trials and pains and we don’t always know those stories, those choices they made between Art and art and between myth and reality and between love and light. All this love and lack of it, the pain and the crazy and the alone and the attempts to construct and deconstruct who we are to ourselves and to others, to expose onstage and off who we are, We make art as a beacon to show all the fucked-up-ed-ness of being, which we mostly all seem to bear.
We bear it all, we bare it all, The Inevitable Glorious Fucked-up-ed-ness of Being Human.
Why do we live except to love?
Can you answer me that? You probably can. There are probably other reasons to live. Reasons like ego and sociopathy, and greed, and callous disregard and turf battles and boredom, just plain not wanting to die.
I don’t know. Today, yesterday, last weekend, it’s my reason.
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