Directing the creative journey in a turbulent world
After watching a few talks from the Global Joy Summit that was held a few weeks ago, I started to think again about my creative practice.
The Global Joy Summit is a virtual gathering to celebrate shared humanity and find joy in these challenging times. The summit opened with a screening of Mission: Joy, a documentary created from a conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Here are two remarkable individuals who have each experienced many traumatic events, and yet, they’re a light and delight to everyone who hears them speak. They’ve done something incredible: they’ve held on to a childlike wonder at the world around them. Despite living in a world struggling with isolation and despair, they still experience a sense of profound joy, each and every day.
In my own struggles with chronic illness and familial trauma, I’ve found that art and poetry has helped me to make sense of what was happening to me. At least, that’s where it started for me. Writing especially, helped me to narrate what I was going through, and when I started to share my work on social media, I soon found that I wasn’t alone. This made me feel validated.
They’ve done something incredible: they’ve held on to a childlike wonder at the world around them. Despite living in a world struggling with isolation and despair, they still experience a sense of profound joy, each and every day.
After a while though, as I dug a little deeper, I started to feel the need to provide answers for myself. I felt discomfort any time a poem or collage made me out to be a victim. I never meant to fall into the victim-mentality trap, but I had ended up there nonetheless. I was angry and disillusioned, so I latched on to any negative, divisive hashtag trend that was going around on social media platforms at the time. Whether the discussion was gender, race, sexuality, it seemed that victimhood was the message.
There’s a well-known saying: art should afflict the comfortable or comfort the afflicted. It seemed that I was caught up in the former, and I had to start muting some of the accounts that I was following. I became ever more conscious of the effect of trauma-exposing art and literature on my own experience. It wasn’t helping me. In fact, it was making me worse.
Funnily enough, the famous saying originated in the media world. It was first said by author Finley Dunne in the 1890’s, and he was referring to the duty of newspapers to the people. I think that current news channels do a pretty good job of afflicting the comfortable, to the point where I can’t imagine there’s that many comfortable people left on this earth. But apart from The Good News channel, and perhaps a handful of smaller efforts, there isn’t much positive news being spread, or if it is, it’s being buried by algorithms created by big tech.
I can’t with good conscience continue to put work out there that expresses a woe-is-me attitude. I need to find a way to integrate the work I’ve been doing on my health into my creative practice.
I stopped checking the news. I even blocked the most visited news sites with an add-on in my browser for a while (it was too easy to disable), but I had to learn self-discipline. I had to take personal responsibility for my own mental and physical welfare, so I started to learn more about brain rewiring techniques, about neurons that fire together and hence wire together. I realised that I had to wire my brain for joy.
I can’t with good conscience continue to put work out there that expresses a woe-is-me attitude. I need to find a way to integrate the work I’ve been doing on my health into my creative practice. I want to create art that will comfort the afflicted. Or I want to create art that shows a way out of the victim mentality.
My book Waking up to Thrutopia, that is coming out next summer, shows that journey. The book is divide in three parts: it moves from an exploration of personal trauma through to a recognition of collective trauma caused by an ill society. The book doesn’t provide answers, as I myself haven’t found any clear solutions (yet). But it begins to show a way through and possibly out: by relating your personal experiences to the wider world and by questioning the status quo.
The prerequisites for a tender rebellion are personal responsibility, openness to new ideas, and a staunch refusal of the fear narrative that is being pushed upon us.
I’m a pacifist, so my aim is to start a tender rebellion. The prerequisites for a tender rebellion are personal responsibility, openness to new ideas, and a staunch refusal of the fear narrative that is being pushed upon us.
I’ve finished writing for this book, and from now on my work will start showing more of the journey towards living with authentic joy as I continue to walk this path. I’m even considering starting a publication where like-minded writers and artists could connect, and we could collectively continue to rewire our brains for better health and a better life.
If this sounds good to you, and you’d like to help, don’t hesitate to send me a message. I feel like it might be a lot for me to take on, but with a few helping hands, the task might become more manageable.