In this period of a lockdown, this
is a simple message from one artist to another. Now, you might be thinking that
this message might not concern you because you might not see yourself as an
I can empathise with you for this ‘non-artist’ self-image that you’ve cultivated over the years. But I would like to make you believe otherwise.
We have become experts at reducing the magnificent scope of our creative energy to a badge or title that we believe represents our identity. The chances are that you refer to yourself as a coder, a teacher, a marketer, a manager, or the underserving frown inviting ‘housewife’.
And in doing so, in closing the door, on drawing a circle around yourself with this identity, you are reducing your capacity to grow and embrace the 3-dimensional sphere of possibilities you hold (or thought once held, likely when you were a child).
The prevailing time of a total lockdown—where you have 24 hours that seem to feel miraculously too long, when there’s no one breathing down your neck, pointing to a work deadline, when you have time on your hands— present a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate who you are deep inside.
We usually associate all social prestige to our occupation, rightly so because that’s how we keep ourselves occupied during a typical workday. But today, when there’s an infinite duration of hours to pass, how would you keep yourself occupied?
And would the way you spend this time tell something about what you have turned into while toiling away in your work-life?
It is a revealing time; indeed, when no online streaming service is capable of satisfying your stream of consciousness. When, in these moments of quietude, the conscience knocks gently on your heart and asks,
‘What could you do to add beauty
and meaning to this seemingly unforgiving hour?
With a strict curtailment of all ‘non-essential’ forms of work—when you find yourself sitting at home and realise how dispensable your occupation has become in the light of this tragic humanitarian crisis— you will wonder what counts as an essential form of work.
When you’re past all that period of resting, you’ll wish to be a part of the task force that is currently and rightly so, essential. The feeling of wanting to be meaningfully engaged is deeply human, after all.
As you think about the question, of what counts as essential, I invite you to peep into the bedroom of a writer, who writes still, late into the night. I welcome you to the studio of a painter, who still paints and brings a canvas to life. Come and watch the dancer who still sways to the beat of changing times, or the poet who, even in this dark hour of our lives, pens down songs of hope.
All of these people who we see as artists are still following a discipline they used to every day for years. They practice and perform as usual, in the pall of a looming threat, in these times of a complete lockdown.
This period of gloom has only seen the artist to have taken a more proactive step towards making art and sharing it with the world. Suddenly, the real importance of art is shining through in this dark hour of humanity.
Whom one would usually deem as a struggling singer-songwriter, is adding a priceless value to our time when they put out a grainy phone recorded video of a song that springs from the heart, as it always did. Why are people choosing to watch them instead of the mundane cute kitten videos that would usually relegate the artist to the bottom of the stream?
Perhaps we are learning to find the essence, of what’s true and beautiful and most importantly, human.
These times of a lockdown call for three things from us—
1) Validation to art, its value in our life, and the respect every artist, no matter where they are in their journey, deserves.
2) Gratitude to our brothers and sisters who are working hard to secure our future, and making sure that our lives still run smoothly.
And most significantly
3) Acceptance of the artist in you, who’s struggling to break out of
the cocoon of conformity that’s loosening as you squiggle in discomfort to find
the butterfly in you.
Your work may have been deemed non-essential at the moment, but your life is still every bit essential. Art can help exalt that life.
It is an opportunity to make something with your hands. Go don that apron and try to make an omelette, even if you haven’t set foot in the kitchen, ever. Dust off the layer of civilizational history that’s sitting on top of your old musical instrument. It has been longing to channel a song through you. Do not worry about how good the art you create would be or how functional or relevant it is. The value of art is in the process, not in the outcome.
You might forget the importance of art when things normalise, but if you emerge out of this lockdown with the acknowledgement that you are an artist at heart, art will blossom in the rain of that realisation.
I invite you to switch off the internet* for a few hours every day and apply yourself. Make art. It is therapy.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
P.S. *Really! Switch it off 🙂
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