This blog has been created to discuss the topics covered in my book : Beyond Discouragement-Creativity.
My goal is to post relevant news articles which both reflect and refute my opinions and observations. As a visitor, your comments would be most appreciated. - Bienvenue. À vous la parole.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today, I was lucky. I was privileged to hear the voice of a real artist. . .

I generally rant about various problems inherent to contemporary life but today. . . I am (trying to be) less of a curmudgeon.

I saw and heard something extraordinary; something which is most ENCOURAGING!

And so. . . I share it with you.

All of us have the capacity to be creative. Whether that creativity is expressed in mathematics, science, sports, music, writing or the visual arts is irrelevant. Creativity is that which allows us all to  survive and thrive in a demanding and difficult world. That we are creative neither makes us geniuses nor does it make life easier. It simply makes us wondrously human. It helps make  life more livable, more challenging and more exciting. Without it, we would all become discouraged and life unbearable.  But does being creative mean we are all artists?

No. It simply means that we are healthy. It means that we have not lost our capacity to be exhilarated by discoveries as much as we are excited about communicating our findings. It means that  sharing, giving and conversing with others on topics and feelings that move us is essential. Creativity is not a requirement which is solely associated with “Art” making. It is, rather, a universal ability which nurtures our need to marvel at and profit from the lives we find ourselves living. It goads us to constantly better that life and to offer to others the same possibility. In essence, creativity encourages us to better anything and everything that we do normally. De facto, being creative has nothing to do with “being” anything other than positively human.

And yet, this talent and effort normality aside, we must admit that some people do "have it" more than others - whatever “it” is. These people not only are curious and talented, they seem to know something we don't. As we do, they work hard at assimilating skills required to poetically transmit their individual messages. . . But. . .  They also seem to have a special capacity to say, through their own chosen medium, ordinary things in an extraordinary way. And in so doing, their creative abilities loom larger than life. The reach their statements make even has a universal appeal.

Now this capacity to reach out, touch and move people in an extraordinary fashion is actually achieved daily by corporate America through their incessant advertising and promotions. So what makes individual "artists" so incredible? Is marketing and promotion to the masses more creative simply because they reach and effect astounding numbers? Is this what is art? Innovative and powerful, it definitely is. Creative and artistic? Well, that's another question. Is it artistic to lure the masses into minimizing and even eliminating difference and individuality through the homogenization of thought and action?. . .  That's a topic already covered by Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. 

Individual artists are those who, above and beyond all the pressures of contemporary homogeneity, strive to impress upon us the privilege and right to individual thinking, dreaming, curiosity, discovering and simply “to having a say”.  And so, though many of us paint, sculpt, sing, dance and write with superior talent and energy, the varying degrees of notoriety we achieve is more often than not based on our being skilled painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and poets - not artists.  But then, do we have to be “artists” in order to enjoy what we do? Most of us don’t crave stardom to validate our existence. We simply find pleasure in being creative. We “do” things to the best of our abilities and skill and are proud that our creative efforts are, in addition, of value to others.

Artists, as stated above, are a rare breed. They are the same, yet different. Their processes are similar yet the outcome of their concerted efforts is extraordinary. Their work exudes a  “je ne sais quoi”. They tend to step back to let their artwork sing. (They have already had their say in creating the artwork and, anyway. . .  They’re already off thinking, considering and feeling another communication). Artists are a rare breed. Despite popular lore, most are not those who say they are artists or those who say they create “because of suffering” or those whose lives are problematic or Hollywood-style reality in stature. No. Artists are those who would rather concentrate on presenting to us what they have discovered, how those discoveries have made them feel and how they consider these discoveries will impact upon our lives. Artists are sharing individuals. Despite their often times monastic work habits, rarely do these individuals deny their connection with the world or public at large.

In essence, being called an artist is not the same as saying we are an artist. The former implies that a general public appreciates a level of artistry which has the ability to communicate a message powerfully. And because it does, that public shows its appreciation of excellence by bestowing upon out-of-ordinary creators the most revered title : of “artist”. On the other hand, the latter suggests that, being impatient, we have absconded with the title - simply because we wanted it. 

Commenting further on the concept of suffering and victimhood in the arts, it is impossible to deny the importance of creativity and self-expression in surmounting turmoil and healing. These are part of a respected therapeutic process which gives “body” to a hurt. They introduce the concept of real and “tangible” to pain. Subsequently, through such a concrete incarnation, the possibility of defeating or taming suffering becomes real. Creativity, in that sense, helps heal wounded souls through the creation of a tool called : "artwork".  And the reasoning behind such therapeutic processes is to eliminate or minimize pain and to defeating a sense of victimhood.

Victimhood, as it is too often promoted by our reality TV environment, actually minimizes real pain and suffering. It has become so ingrained in our contemporary psyches that differentiating true victims from pseudo-victims is proving itself to be more and more difficult every day. Being a victim (or playing at it) should not be a status or tool to promote oneself - not if our society is healthy. And it is certainly even less a state which is desired by real artists. If anything, victimhood should be something we desire greatly to overcome - not take advantage of. It is only through its elimination that we become strong as individuals and as a collective.

Where artists are concerned, hurt and suffering can be part and parcel of their human existence, as much as it can be part of ours. There is nothing extraordinary about an “artist” being in pain. The role of hurt or pain, in most of our lives, is that of an inconvenient annoyance which, depending on its intensity, can dictate (or not) whether our lives are positive and creative (or not). In the life of any victim, creativity may exist in tandem with pain - and through this connection a healthy therapeutic expression may begin. But in the life of an artist who also happens to suffer, the “raison d’être” of pain seems different. True artists have always created “despite” pain, not because of it. For many years I have spoken on this very point - though some have pooh-poohed my assertions. 

Today, I was somewhat vindicated. I heard the voice of Sung Bong Choi. (see You Tube link).  And I heard the young man’s story. I knew then that I was listening not to a voice in pain but a voice which rang out, which existed and exploded with a powerful sense of life-giving energy - “despite” the serious emotional pain which afflicts him. An artist’s voice is never anti hope nor desperate nor despairing nor filled with discouragement.  I repeat : A true artist’s voice exists despite pain. And when pain is involved in the life of an artist, THAT “despiteness” is what makes creative genius ART. And, subsequently, an individual an artist. 


  1. Thank you for bringing my attention to this amazing young man and his wonderful voice! He makes me feel ashamed of the times I despair over what is going on in the world. A true artist indeed.

  2. He's not someone you hide away. But he does make us realize how spoiled we are. . . Can you imagine how many hearts he will touch from here on in? Thank you Karen for your comments.