I ain't wasting no more time"
I've been reading some books on creativity (that a church friend has generously let me borrow for far too long), and they have been striking a chord. Here's Steven Pressfield talking about fundamentalism in his book, The War of Art:
"The artist and the fundamentalist both confront the same issue, the mystery of their existence as individuals. Each asks the same questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life?
...The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place. He has a core of self-confidence, of hope for the future. He believes in progress and evolution. His faith is that humankind is advancing, however haltingly and imperfectly toward a better world.
The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state. The truth is not out there awaiting revelation; it has already been revealed. The word of God has been spoken and recorded by His prophet, be he Jesus, Muhammad, or Karl Marx.
To combat the call of sin... the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much as the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.
...The humanist believes that humankind, as individuals, is called upon to co-create the world with God. This is why he values human life so highly. In his view, things do progress, life does evolve; each individual has value, at least potentially, in advancing this cause. The fundamentalist cannot conceive of this. In his society, dissent is not just crime but apostate; it is heresy, transgression against God Himself."
- Steven Pressfield, The Art of War, pg. 33-37
Cultivating creativity in my life has also strengthened me spiritually, despite that fact that we are often taught to believe it would have the opposite effect. In reality, it is fundamentalism that is a corruption of true faith, stripping it of it's hope and agency. As I've been watching the new Trump administration, I've seen how fundamentalist and fear-based thinking seems to be legitimized in every other executive order. What values are we endorsing? What views are we validating?
I think Woody Guthrie got it right. We can use our god-given gifts of creativity to combat poisonous thinking. It's important, for reals. Especially in the face of this. Deanna Haggag, who was recently profiled in Vogue, has something to say about art in times of political strife:
"Why put any skills or efforts into protecting this thing when there are a million other fights? When millions of Americans could potentially die if certain things are repealed and cut? ...The reason the federal government wants to defund arts is that the arts have the power to make people think for themselves, and in every moment when there’s been a fascist society they try to remove the arts because they know that a painting can wage war.
...We, the community of artists in the world, that’s our job: to bring nuance to light, to open up different ways of looking and seeing. And so part of the job of supporting artists is supporting that, too. The arts, the national parks, public broadcast: We’re just all part of a team; we have to be on the defense all the time so that things like housing and nutrition can be on the offense."
If you're a writer, write. If you're a dancer, dance. If you're afraid to call yourself a doer of the thing you want to do, take a crazy leap and start including it in your personal introductions. We all have an art to share, and there really isn't any time to waste.