One of our valued fans said in the comments to the "Boy, George" post. . .
The artist is overly concerned with their own "feelings" and image over substance. . .
At any rate, a soldier has to go out and deal with the hard truths of life while the artist tends to sit back and write a song about it.
Now this is something I can get passionate about. Why in the world do we have to be disrespecting the artist? I'd like to defend the artist, as I think a person with this disposition is essential to any balanced, healthy community of people. And also, I believe that God has created me to be an artist. And I'm not about to allow God's creation to be maligned without some dissent.
If this world was nothing more than Darwin imagined, one in which material reality, the passing of genes, and survival of your genes was the ultimate goal, then I might agree with the notion that a soldier is vitally more important than an artist. But the truth is, we have a spiritual dimension to deal with. We have to feed our soul as well as our bodies. We need to defend our spirits as well as our borders. And we need to explore our hearts as much as we need to explore new frontiers of science and land. . .
Of course, anyone with a small appreciation of the Apostle Paul's teaching of the Body, and how every part has an essential function and need appreciate parts different then themselves, probably knows all this already, but there is no reason to degrade the artists in comparison to the soldier
. They are both equally deserving of revere, of appreciation, of respect.
As the scriptures begin, how do we first see God? He is an artist, creating .. . turning a dark vast chunk of nothingness into the wonderfully vibrant beautiful world we all should enjoy.
As we are made in the image of God, this to me is a mandate. I always have loved seeing a chunk of clay and knowing it could be a sublimely designed pot, a sculpture, it could be anything. I love the idea that as a musician I can take notes that are available to everyone and language available to everyone, filter these things through my talent and heart, and come up with something brand new, something this world has never seen, something that can be the thing to touch someone's heart in a way it wouldn't be touched otherwise.
Of course this is no longer dealing in the world of image alone, but in both image, and the substance that stands behind that image and powers it. True artists are not concerned with image over substance -- instead they delve into the substance to produce an adequate image, one that can at least approximate the substance that it tries to mirror. Images alone, soundbites alone -- they are the currency that politicians, corporations, and propagandists trade in. . . not the artist.
I can craft a story that can capture somebodies interest and teach them something that a debate never could. Is it any surprise that Jesus was primarily a storyteller, which is another form of the arts of course. He entertained and delighted people with his simple stories, and by them taught people things they could never understand through through a lecture or an essay.
The above quote represents to me a very bad understanding of what a real artist does. Every artist that I know who makes anything worth appreciating is succesful precisely because they are confronting the hard truths of this world.
This is what often makes art vital and worthwhile. Not the avoidance of these things, running off to write a song or paint a picture, but sublimating the ills of this world and actually dealing with them through art. It's sad that this is not recognized.
As for pre-occupation with self, this entirely subjective measure needs some quantifying to even discuss it (was Jesus pre-occupied with self when he was begging God to take this cup from him in the garden, is that anguish any less self-centered than what some artists express?), but I've often found that artists are some of the most observant people, of both themselves and other people. They watch, they listen, they think, they dream, and they create.
Most of my music is actually taking the perspective of people I meet or talk to, dealing with their hard truths for them in some ways. And when the true artist is "self-centered," by sharing that pain or happiness or anger with the rest of the world, they can in some ways act as the sacrificial lamb, the person who can express these things that everybody feels, and again add to the existence of other people.
Lastly, unless you want constant war, constant uprisings and constant chaos, eventually you have to change people's hearts. In England, the church led the charge to abolish slavery, fueled by some excellent abolition songs that captured a country's spirit. You change people's hearts -- not through force, but through speaking to their spirits. One movie -- the Passion of Christ, managed to affect more young people in this country than years of forced church going. Think of how a movie, a song, think how it can affect you. This is an artists job, and a huge responsibility, as it can obviously be used for good or bad.
Again, I'm guilty of an essay, a very long essay. But really, I think this had to be addressed. And please, the artist and the soldier are roles that the same person can play. Have no doubt that I would take up arms and defend our country if we were invaded. Have no doubt that if I had to I would sacrifice myself for another. Have no doubt that many artists would do this.