Here we are in the final month of this insane year. I’m a big fan of reflecting and setting new goals year round, but I do find a particular joy in reassessing at the end of the calendar year. It’s often a bit of a bleak time—maybe we’re lacking vitamin D, maybe we’re feeling drained by the early sunset, maybe we’re in the middle of a school year and struggling to find motivation for the upcoming semester…
And I just personally find that a little manufactured/culture-pressured forward-thinking (New Year’s Goal Setting) can actually be a lovely boost. So. I’m here for it.
As I’ve personally started this annual process myself, I have found my thoughts twisting all around with the Artifice conversations I’ve had recently.
November 2020 Featured:
- Jessica Baynes, Dancer (November 3, Ep. 81)
- Laura Lee Bradshaw, Bronze Sculptor, Painter (November 10, Ep. 82)
- Eric Hopkins, Utah Symphony Percussionist (November 17, Ep. 83)
- Mark Bigelow, Stained Glass Artist (November 24, Ep. 84)
Y’all know I’m consistently on one about the ways creativity can help us be better, more curious and compassionate humans. It’s possibly my favorite topic of all time. And my guests this month have given me such lovely food for thought here.
Usually, I think of creativity as something that can encourage us to be more human…more humane. But lately I’ve been thinking of humanity—like, the sorts of acts and traits that set our species apart—as creative expression in and of itself.
I was so moved hearing Jessica talk about dance being “fundamental to the human condition.” If you are human, you dance. Your natural, embodied state is inclined to dancing. I feel so much the same way about our voices being naturally inclined to song, but hadn’t thought about the full impact of this principle, as it pertains to dance, and likely pertains to many of forms of creative expression. I love this blurring of the lines between being and creating. Being IS creative. Speaking, moving, singing, dancing—these are essentially human and inherently creative.
Laura Lee had me almost in tears as she described her process for capturing humanity in bronze sculpture. Her practice is to consider the awe she feels around her own humanity—her firsthand experience with BEING a human who is vibrant and valued—and she projects that wonder onto her subjects. Of course she’s classically and technically trained, but her most precious skill is the ability to look into the eyes of her subjects and really, deeply see them. See their humanity. Realize and express it through bronze. The skill is translating an inner experience into something others can consume. Again, the lines between humanity and expression are beautifully blurry and intertwined.
It was a small part of our chat, but I’ve been thinking so much about what Eric shared about his recent experiences with volleyball, applying his music skills toward improving his athleticism. He talked about the processes whereby he has learned music…first, by rote—taking hours and hours and hours of repetition to somewhat clumsily learn or approximate a whole piece, versus zooming in to the minutia to really examine this or that passage. It’s something that all busy musicians know well: There are different ways TO learn.
I think the very simple (if profound) idea that we can actually LEARN in multiple ways, that we can develop practices and strategies to alter our learning processes, is extraordinarily powerful. I’m not sure I’m prepared to articulate all the things I feel about this, but I think it’s mostly about our inherent adaptability (and is adaptability not creative?). Depending on our individual circumstances, environments, cultures…we will not only learn the tactile/mechanical skills, social skills, language skills, etc. we need, but we will fairly automatically learn how to most efficiently and effectively learn these things. And because this learning process is so seamlessly part of our particular worlds, we may assume that all people learn as we do.
Again, I think the study of music (and likely many/most art forms) is something that can force us to realize our assumption is wrong; there are multiple ways to learn. And I believe that once we know this little fact, the world opens up in a new way. We begin (hopefully) to wonder about what other methods of learning there may be. We begin to apply curiosity in a whole new way. And the creative (adaptive) skills we gained as a matter of necessity begin to take on new meaning, given the context. We can start to realize how creative we are as a matter of simply being. And maybe we won’t take that propensity for granted, erroneously considering ourselves to be uncreative beings if we don’t make art.
NOTE: Eric mentioned the concept of “Duende,” and I fully neglected to ask him to elaborate. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, here is a bit of reading material. Again—something essentially human, essentially creative, essentially wondrous.
DUENDE AS ECSTACY >>>
NICK CAVE ON SAUDADE AND DUENDE >>>
Finally, my conversation with Mark filled my heart all the way up, and is a perfect bookend to this season of Artifice, and to this year. Mark shared his experience as a very young adult, building an eye-opening friendship with another young man who “saw the world in bigger and different ways,” and then pursuing these bigger and different ways in his own life and studies. I LOVE that Mark chose to share the fear that he had about expanding his world view. It’s so deeply relatable, but something very few are brave enough to say. Despite an existential discomfort, Mark kept his eyes and heart open as he considered the variable nature of the world, of “good and bad,” “right and wrong.” In addition to gorgeous stained glass work, Mark seems to live an enormously creative life as he eschews certainty in all forms.
From my perspective, this is creativity in its absolute purest, highest, and most ideal form. Waving moment to moment between fear, wonder, joy, pain—and just letting that very real-time discovery be the destination.
Unlike the other three topics laid out above, this final concept is, I think, not inherently human. It’s not a given as movement, value, and adaptability usually are. But I do believe that if we want to live up to the adjective version of the word “human,” it’s something we need.
And I hope it’s something we’ll all resolve to improve throughout the new year.
I would love so much to hear your responses, ideas, and thoughts in EM DEEP DIVE ROOM >>>
And I’ll be back in your inbox soon with a few more year-in-review musings…