When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize… We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart… It’s just like that.
— Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
Here we are. Swimming in an ocean of alienation and uncertainty about our collective future – as a country, as a world, as human beings. Uncharted territory. Post-election, many of my clients – regardless of party – felt numb and exhausted by the bitter rhetoric. Several told me they’d logged off of social media and turned off the TV. Click. Silence. Now what?
How do we bring ourselves back to life in the wake of a soul-deadening experience? Many have leapt to action – volunteering, protesting. But what if you’re more like me? In times of disorientation I confess that my own bias is not towards action but towards reflection. So I’ve been turning for inspiration where I always have – to artists and writers.
“Alienation is the wellspring of art; in fact, feeling alone is often why you become an artist. Which means that, in times of artistic alienation, distress is often repaid to us in the form of great work, much of it galvanizing or clarifying or (believe it or not) empowering. That is because art isn’t a superfluous, elitist escape; it’s a way of knowing the world, a place to find common cause and not fall apart.”
— Jerry Saltz, “This Post-Election Pain is Good, At Least for Art,” Vulture
But I have also turned for inspiration to my own wellspring of creativity. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says “Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control.” Personally, I am in a moment where I feel not at all in control of what will happen next in our common world. So I’m leaning into that reality.
I’m on the brink, but I’m channeling the energy that’s here, and unexpectedly I’ve returned to serious singing after quite some time. Obsessively researching and listening to music – in the gym, on the subway, everywhere – has filled me with a creative energy that has crowded out the noise of nightly news reports. And then there’s the singing itself – the full-body experience of making music. There’s nothing more life affirming.
Maybe a surprising response to our challenging political climate? I can’t yet say. But if you are anything like me and are longing for a way to channel the uncomfortable energy of this moment and mine your own creative impulses, then here is a list of resources I recommend.
- The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
- The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke