You cannot wait for someone else to define your life

Hudson River Greenway (When His People Forget Where The Water Is, The Poet Can Lead Them To It) ©MAIERMOUL
Hudson River Greenway (When His People Forget Where The Water Is, The Poet Can Lead Them To It) ©MAIERMOUL

The South African writer Antjie Krog described meeting a nomadic desert poet in Senegal who described the role of poets in his culture. The job of the poet, he explained to her, is to remember where the water holes are.

The survival of the whole group depends on a few water holes scattered around the desert. When his people forget where the water is, the poet can lead them to it.

What an apt metaphor for the role of the artist in any culture. The water is the history, the memory, the juice, and the elixir of shared experience. I want to keep this notion in mind while examining the role of the artist in our present climate.

Love is not a feeling. No matter how much you feel, love means nothing when unrelated to action. Love is action. In order to engage in effective action you must first find something that you value and put it at the center of your life.

You cannot expect other people to create meaning for you. You cannot wait for someone else to define your life. You make meaning by forging it with your hands. It requires sweat and commitment. Working toward the creation of meaning is the point. It is action that forges the meaning and the significance of a life.

When you put your life into the service of what you value, that action will engender other values and beliefs. Through engagement, things happen. Movement is all. Keep moving and yet slow down simultaneously. In Latin this is known as festina lente, “make haste slowly.” Inside of this paradox, you make a space where growth and art can happen. Within the framework of art and theater you will find a special freedom and the space and time to explore complexities. It does not cost you anything. It costs you your life.

And it is critical to have some direction and be clear about certain impossible goals that you are trying to achieve if you hope to achieve some of the possible goals. And you must be bold enough to specualte, postulate and imagine on the basis of partial knowledge. At the same time you must remain open to the very strong possibility that in fact you are way off the mark.

-Anne Bogart
introduction And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World