At this moment in time, our world seems particularly chaotic--deep divisions and ignorance have led to increasingly brutal events around the globe. We look to political and spiritual leaders only to realize that they are oftentimes ineffective, self-serving or even corrupt. What we're craving is meaning, the type of eternal wisdom that only the artist can deliver. Throughout history, the artist (meaning all creators, i.e. poets, writers, singers, dancers, actors, painters, etc.) has functioned as a type of visionary healer, a shaman-like figure with the power to bring clarity, peace, and ultimately meaning to his or her people. But human beings are a forgetful lot--our contemporary sensibilities have become increasingly anesthetized to the vital role of the artist. It's as if we're starving for nourishment that we don't realize even exists.
While we face many challenges today, ancient cultures were just as troubled as our own. However, for some of them, the artist could be called upon to find meaning in the chaos. The Aztecs (Mixteca) recounted their reverence for their artists in accounts to their Spanish conquerers. These accounts included separating the "true artist" from one that simply uses the devices or tools of the artist. Today we find ourselves uncomfortable or perhaps simply unable to discern true art from something more shallow and commercial. The marketplace has infiltrated our thinking of value and meaning, yet our need for authentic art remains as strong as ever. What could art accomplish if we looked at it through ancient eyes? An Aztec poetry fragment from the sixteenth century provides a clue:
"The artist: disciple, abundant, multiple, restless.
I'm Mary Antonia Wood, Ph,D. I share both contemporary & ancient insights on the origins & realities of artistic expression. Creators of all types will discover enriching & practical wisdom about their vocation as expressed through the lenses of philosophy, mythology, archetypal & depth psychologies, neuroscience and more. Take a look.