I recently stumbled upon some images of the ocean, found on Mr. Howe's facebook page, that really made me think of what it means to be a man (man in the human context). I'm reminded that living in Cincinnati, where I am brought to a feeling of awe by heady storm clouds and the occasional confrontation with some animal taken out of its context and thrown into a world of our making, there is something missing. Something integral to the human experience. In this world of comfort and air conditioning, where we have managed to keep the Mother at bay, it's easy to forget that there is a place man once went where he could respect and admire that which could wipe him from the face of the earth in the time it takes to blink only once. John Howe summed it up nicely when he said, "I am not a man of the sea." I am not, either. Not a man OF the sea, as in a seafarer, but I am, rather, in love with the sea. Just gazing out at it, at its vastness, its terrible power, even in stillness, gives me pause to consider what it is I do in this world.
Men once fought less brutal war with Nature, forced to build their lives AROUND it. We now crush her beneath our heels and keep her at bay (at least that's what we tell ourselves) for the sake of progress, with the idea in the back of our minds that we can be invincible in the face of that fickle woman. In reality we cower, convinced that the earth is all we have to fear, when Nature is truly all around us, beyond us, balanced to support us, and capable of throwing off that balance and destroying us. I'm guilty at times of that delusion that I am beyond harm, taking for granted my place in the balance, forgetting that I am Nature, as well (reminded only when we need to eat and sleep and relieve ourselves).
My point in saying this is that there is something intrinsic to the artistic journey that we all need be reminded of at one time or another. In ancient times, creative people were priests, interpreting the world so that other men could identify with and Nature and the forces around them in terms they could comprehend. It also helped them learn where to place the spear to bring food for the village/clan.
As visual people, we are moved more by what we see. That same sea, crashing like thunder on the stony verge of the earth, is crashing against our senses. Terrifyingly real, it brings to the fore the troubles we feel are crashing against our own beaches, threatening to erode and sweep away the beach of our resolve. It is our job to bring experiences, whatever form that takes, to everyone, even ourselves. It's easy to forget that every pebble creates ripples, no matter how small. Everything we put out touches someone. In the face of that wave I think, "what am I putting out? Am I helping some child somewhere come to grips with adolescent angst, the flooding sea of paradox, trapped between adulthood and childhood, stuck in a realm where a yearning for autonomy is buffered by the knowledge that they still have a home and a parent paying their way? Am I connecting with someone who has found himself in an ocean of self-loathing, lost to grief and looking for some common ground in the sea on which to cling in the face of overwhelming odds? Even if those odds are the self. Am I helping someone better understand and empathize with Nature and his fellow man?" As artists I feel it is important to ask these questions of ourselves. Just as it is easy to forget our place in this world and the awesome (look this word up) beauty and danger it offers us, it is easy to forget that we touch everyone with the smallest acts. The single tiny stone makes the greatest impact in a still pond. The ripples touch every bank, washing miniscule (lol, this word must not be popular, it says I'm spelling it wrong :P) particles into the depths and pushing them further up onto the bank. In many ways, this constant barrage of information and stimulation is like a storm. It's hard to see individual progress and consequences when rain and sand is blinding our eyes. It's only when the storm settles that we see what damage we have done. So, in light of this article, I would urge you all to slow down for just a moment and consider. There are plenty of waves in that storm already. There are volumes that can be spoken in silence. It's easier to pick out individual sounds. Sometimes that is the best way to hear the quiet voice inside that urges us to do what is right, for ourselves and others.