by Phil Houseal
March 5, 2014
What inspires you?
How do you recharge your battery? We run and run until all our energy is expended, then seek a source of power to top off our cells. How many of you turn to the arts–music, painting, film, literature, or sculpture–for that boost?
As I try to find topics to share with readers, I periodically seem to arrive at points where I feel inadequate to write about the very subjects I cover. This in not meant to disparage the art or artist; it is asking what I, as the consumer, am failing to bring to the interaction? It begs a larger question: Do we view art and music as a diversion from life? Or as a reason for living?
I think the answer for many is “both.” From time to time, cynicism overcomes appreciation. For example, in any genre of music we hear the same motifs and themes over and over. That is the very definition of “genre.” But–to use simplistic examples–how many times can one be moved by the troubles of a blues song lyric, no matter how soulful? How many old pickups, dirt roads, and girls in denim can populate a country song? In movies, how many times can you be entertained by the “boy falls in love with girl; boy loses girl; man hunts whale” plot?
This lack of enthusiasm also manifests in the artist. Every musician has experienced that dreaded performance where they “felt nothing:”
“I knew it was going to be strange, because I didn’t feel nervous before starting. During a song, I didn’t feel moved. When I messed up, I didn’t care.”
So, I really am curious where people find their inspiration. Why do some songs speak to us, and others leave us speechless? Why can we watch one film or play over and over, and be unable to plow all the way through another? And how can the person in the seat next to us have the exact opposite and equally valid reaction?
As an experiment, I polled friends on what book brought them the most inspiration. The answers ranged from the religious: the Bible, the Shack, Jesus Calling, Siddhartha; to those considered classics: Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, Heart of Darkness, Atlas Shrugged; to outliers such as the Boy Scout Handbook, the Book of Questions, and The War of Art.
The interesting aspect was not everyone’s choices, but that 50 people each had a different choice.
This haphazard survey suggests that the power of art lies not in the art itself, but rather in the reaction it creates in the perceiver.
So is the key to inspiration inside each one of us? I am beginning to believe it is so.
This revelation gives a different perspective that is incredibly freeing. WE are the art we seek.
To put it another way: No one has ever written The Great American Novel.
But everyone has read it.