Saturday night, I saw a one-woman play performed in a local theater. “Rachel Corrie” is the story of a courageous young woman who spent her last months in Palestine, championing a cause that was dear to her heart. The story of her death was not the story that needed told; the story of her life was a lesson in humanity.
I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon watching “The 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time” on VH1 Classic, a rare couple of hours in front of the television. I only got the chance to catch numbers sixty through one, but in every artist profiled a common theme began to emerge: the abnormality of those who transcended their genre to become music icons.
Sunday night, I caught snippets of the Academy Awards. Billy Crystal was charming and funny, yes, but the true appeal of the show began to appear during introductions and acceptance speeches, when introductions attempted to articulate the effect a particular work of art had on other human beings, and acceptance speeches showed us the raw emotion and human element of those great minds who were responsible for these works.
The weekend’s crescendo came during Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech. Watching her bring herself to tears, as she has so many times prior, I found myself wondering at the fantastic places artists to which artists can transport us. There’s a magic in art that’s so often overlooked in our overstimulated world. An artist- an actor, painter, writer, singer, sculptor, dancer, composer- offer us a magic carpet ride. It’s as if they pull up alongside us, telling us “I know a world not far from this one, which you absolutely must see. Jump on, and I’ll be your guide.” Sometimes this world is, truly, another world. Sometimes it is only another dimension of our own reality- one that we either didn’t know existed, or that we simply never recognized. In either case, the artist’s task is simple: to move us. They tinker with the innermost workings of our hearts, of our minds, tugging and pulling until we feel an emotion that almost overwhelms us. Feel that? That’s profound sadness. This lever here? Fear. This button? Pure joy. This, my friend, is what your soul was created to feel. This is what your heart is capable of.
The ability to move your fellow man to tears, to unbridled laughter, to truly feeling operates as a sort of currency among artists. You moved me, sir, and I feel that I owe it to you to move you, too. I must repay you for your performance, and so in my next endeavor, I will strive to be better, to reveal to you the part of yourself which you have revealed to me.
This is the higher plane that true creators reach. The rest of the world operates on a currency of money- a vile, earthly, meaningless thing. Artists, though, transfer and create and destroy this amazing currency of movement, encircling the world in a spiraling web of heartache, laughter, and emotion. If you pay attention, you may even see it. A lucky few do. The next time you’re moved by a performance, a piece of writing, a song, close your eyes. The web may appear, in all its brilliant colors- the reds of love, the deep purples of perseverance, the whites of fear, the yellows of compassion. If you’re lucky enough to see it, you are thereby given a task: to add your own color to the web, to move your fellow human being as you have been moved. Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and get to work.