The title for this post is from the title of a song by Jimmy Page and David Coverdale, Whisper a Prayer for the Dying. As far as I can tell, it’s the only song Jimmy Page has ever done that is any kind of political statement, but it’s a powerful message in a whole album of powerful music — but that’s not the point of today’s post.
Today’s post is about being a creative person living in times of shit hitting the fan. It’s about trying to keep on keeping on in spite of the nagging feeling that something more than just keeping on is called for. That the fallout from a world that’s gone bonkers can’t be ignored. I’m talking about pandemic, mass shootings and domestic terrorism, climate change and natural disasters, environmental destruction and species extinction, not to mention rapacious corporations and warmongering world leaders.
I’m talking about staving off helplessness.
I’m talking about continuing to be creative in spite of a constant, low-level anxiety about things beyond one’s control, on top of dealing with daily survival in an uncertain world and all the crises at the personal level.
I’m talking about me — but you may recognize these feelings in yourself.
So let’s say you’re a creative person. An artist of whatever flavor. The scary question lurking deep down inside is whether there’s any point in continuing to create. Is there going to be an actual future for novels or paintings? Isn’t it rather indulgent to be creating art in the midst of all the crap we’re dealing with today? Shouldn’t we be out in the trenches, dealing directly with the issues?
Taking it to the personal level, is there any point for me to edit my novel, to write the next one, to share more photos, or to keep working on the latest wall hanging when it feels like the whole world is crumbling around me?
I’ve been wrestling with the issue. I’ve been asking myself how to justify continuing to work on my art when so many living beings on this planet are suffering and dying. How to even want to make art when there might not be a future with art in it. Please — it’s not about making money. I don’t earn enough from my artwork for that to be an issue. It’s about whether continuing to be creative is the right and moral thing to do at this time.
This kind of thinking naturally leads to the fundamental questions: what is art, and what is art for?
They’re not rhetorical questions for me. They are questions that belong right there with who am I, and why am I here. They’re the questions that I need answers for because otherwise I cannot go on in the face of hopelessness.
I can’t ask you. I can’t search for the answers in any book. These are questions for which there are no universal answers, only personal ones.
And so, as I listen to the song again, for the umpteenth time, I have come to my answer. It might be only for this moment and not tomorrow. I can’t say. What I can say is that today I believe in a future. One in which there’s not just a place for art, but for my art.
Today I believe that my own art could be a prayer for the dying. For the dead.
And for the living, too.
Today I believe we may someday learn to live in peace, and maybe the whispers of hope and beauty that I seek to convey in my art will help get us there.
Today I will pray by making art.
Originally published on Patreon February 25, 2022