People whose conversation I enjoy have been talking a lot about life-changing times, lately. Decades that have marked crucial turning points in their lives. Realizations that have come, and with them an illumination which has changed the way they see the world, or more importantly, changed their artistic response to the world they live in.
That power of change, the response to an epiphany, has been something I have honoured for many years. One of the quotes prominent in my workspace is:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionis
I tried to look through lists of music and films of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s to find favourites and life-changers. There were too many. I have been too many different people through all those decades to find a place to say, ‘that is when I realized I was me’. I have trouble knowing who me is, even now.
What is common to other people’s discussions I’ve followed, though, and all those about planning for their success today, is passion. All the people who get together to discuss the things that precipitated a need to change – or to find a voice in the face of injustice, or to make the time in the life of a busy working wife and mother to write – speak about their passion.
Often they speak about the passion for reading at an early age. Some speak of keeping fading copies of stories they wrote as small children. Some speak of the anger that found a voice through art.
I don’t appear to have a passion. I get passionate about issues. Cruelty, any kind of enabled suffering, makes me angry and outspoken; injustice, bigotry, waste, illiteracy, education failures, health and mental health rights, all other human rights – just the typical lefty sort of ideologies, but generally I seem to be like water.
Water just finds a level and sits, or evaporates and then tumbles down again, or slowly erodes obstacles. Water only gets any grit about it when there is some external force causing a disturbance. That’s me. No passion. Water. Lucky water.
I haven’t had to struggle for any of the successes I’ve had; I’ve just been in the right place at the right time and known the right people. I’m not competitive at all. I cannot win a race. If someone is in a hurry to get past me I am as likely to step aside and offer them my skates to make their journey easier. That isn’t saintly – it’s just that I don’t care if someone gets where they’re going ahead of me.
I think that’s why I feel so lost in this new world.
I cannot compete. I cannot call out continually, ‘Mine is best’. And among those who have no need to succeed in terms of recognition, I have no passion to drive me on to make myself find my very best and put it out there for others. I need external stimuli, deadlines, causes. I need to have something important to say that someone else hasn’t already said better.
The only thing I have in common with the world of other artists is this endless, circular, self-destructive, ego-driven fascination with myself and telling everyone else about it.