December is CREATIVE HABITAT month. I’m looking at ways artistic people manage to make fulfilling lives, despite and also because of structures and limitations. Today I’m (re) constructing my own world view, which seems in opposition to prevailing rhetoric:
It’s been a real boost to have guest bloggers weigh in about staying creative, even though surroundings and finances might not always support it. Clare Tallon Ruen wrote about finding uplifting, sustaining energy within a Factory School Model (aka public school). And last week, Zara Bode wrote about the ways she and partner Stefan have continued their musical/touring lives while raising a kid.
The schooling and touring-with-kid are projects I’ve undertaken. I often feel like the odd one out on the playground of parents making weekend plans, or in the rock-and-roll-backstage with my kid.
But beyond that, these days I’m feeling out of sync with my country. Now that the Electoral College has cast votes, I acknowledge deep despair that our new U.S. President will be a failed businessman and former reality television host. Critics of my type of despair have called it East Coast snobbery.
My ego jumps to the defense: Hell, I’ve lived in Southern Illinois. I went to college on scholarships. I’ve lived in a mobile home. I’ve worked as a cleaning lady and a waitress (they called us cleaning ladies and waitresses back then).
I’ve also played on elaborate stages throughout Europe and Thailand, and hob knobbed with SecState John Kerry in Nantucket while playing an event. Note: Kerry came up to us musicians during the break to let us know how much he enjoyed the tunes.
No matter the setting or opportunity (or tough patch), I’ve always known how lucky I am to have parents who encouraged me to embrace and savor my intellectual and artistic pursuits. So have most of my friends: whether they have attended the local public school, or have home- or world- schooled, they’ve had parents and mentors who support them, and who continue to help them find the resources they need for continued growth. Not everybody gets that. Money doesn’t guarantee it, and limited funds don’t prevent it.
[ aside: So let’s vote for legislators on every level who support funding for libraries and accessible (public) schools! And let’s tell our teachers, administrators, and legislators that we value innovation and resourcefulness in our kids… and we support teachers who endorse creative projects, even if these aren’t all test-able. ]
These days I don’t always devote myself to complex, mind expanding activities. And I have a long way to go, before I base more of my decisions on REASON instead of emotions. But I think it’s an important aspiration. Furthering my education, investing in my intellect, and gathering information and making my own decisions/rhetoric does not mean I’m detaching from real world problems. And of course this work is not the sole practice of white lefties from Massachusetts. America is filled with a wide variety of intellectuals effecting real-world change like conservative William F. Buckley, radical Malcolm X, Kentucky’s holistic Wendel Berry, and Alabama and Florida’s eloquent Zora Neale Hurston.
At this moment in America, I reject the argument that intellectualism is AGAINST everyday people, or it’s not about “regular folks.” I side with thoughtfulness and knowledge for all. Though it might not get the popular vote (wait, maybe it did…), I’m after higher skills, higher thoughts, and higher expectations for public discourse. I honor collective wisdom and understanding, whether it dwells in Massachusetts or Arkansas.
And meanwhile, I’ll keep cooking a lot of dried beans and oatmeal. Because–though not always popular and sexy–these highly nutritious, delicious foods elevate body and mind, and nearly everybody can afford them.