I just finished rereading Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods. If you’re not familiar, the book is a story about America but one in which the gods of past and present still exist. Down on their luck leprechauns, jin that drive taxi’s, gods of the egyptian afterlife that run mortuaries, etc.. there is a constant pairing of former power planted in a mundane position in the middle of a world that is forgetting about them. In this universe, the gods die when they have no one left to worship them, a crazy thought.
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One component of the book is the idea of the gods being the cultivated essence of something. The full culmination of a feeling. Pantheism was interesting in that you sacrificed to different gods for different pursuits. Each god had his own likes and peculiarities. I like that. Glad its not the way the world really is, but maybe it is a little when it comes to being a creative person.
One of the dynamics of all diety/human relationships is sacrifice. There is no god that doesn’t require them. Somehow, deep in the core of our brain, we understand that to move heaven, we must move earth. Something has to go into the magic bag for something else to come out.
I think a lot about what it means to be an artist, partially because I have always wondered if I indeed was one. I have always felt less like an artist, and more like someone just smart enough to figure something out, and just restless enough to need to try. Maybe thats what all art is. A neon sign pointed simultaneously at an ideal and at ourselves.
Last night, I was putting the finishing touches on Marie Kondo-ing my house. Sorting through old blank CD’s and uploading stuff on my laptop. I found a little sound card that I thought was blank. Turns out it contained several song demo’s I recorded when i first moved back to Charleston.
When I hear stuff like that, I go deep inside my own head sometimes. I reject parts, laud others, wonder why certain things turned out the way they did. But in the midst of all my sorting, I found a song with lyrics I forgot I wrote. I remembered one line, but hearing it again, was like hearing it from a stranger.
“every man that ever lived and ever loved a woman
can feel the traces of her father with her
gave you his creative mind, then parked his car on the fault line
then left you in the desert in the winter
and then no one came
so you made up a name
now its the only one you answer to
and I may have given up on us
I may have given up on us
I may have given up on us
But I never gave up on you
Do you remember when the room was filled?
Do you remember when the room was filled with you?”
Could I write it better now? yeah. Did the rest of the song ever come together? No. But man, I made something beautiful. And that is somehow the hardest and the most important thing in the world.
As I went to bed I started thinking about how perfume is made. Perfume is a distillation of something. The essence of something contained in one drop. The word perfume comes from the latin word “per fumus “ which means “through smoke”. I can’t get that out of my head.
Fast forward to now, I am still engaged in trying to make beautiful things, albeit in a different way. Sometimes i make something and people give me love for it. Examining the thing in the abstract, I am grateful but sometimes baffled by their reaction. But today I wonder if the beauty we had to make before in order to create the beauty at present is only perceptible to the other person. In other words, we can’t always see our own layers.
Jesus took break and fish. The most humble of meals. And multiplied it for a large group of people the story says. We all have our bread and fish. And somehow, contained in the humble is the infinite. The beauty of everything you’ve ever done like a long succession of notes.
The only real response to this for me is to make more things. Make beauty, as best you can, as often as you can, share it whenever you can. And cheer on the beauty in others. Pull on it. Don’t let them settle.
In A Christmas carol, Marley’s ghost appears in chains, and the chains had tied to them cash boxes, ledgers, deeds etc... in the after life, he was connected forever to the thing he created and valued most like a necklace.
I hope for myself and for you that we never stop creating things that our significant, and that we get to enjoy them long past the day they had their debut. Maybe Marley in heaven would be connected to a string of good deeds and art and generosity.
Note from Joseph:
Hey friends, I write these blogs because its in me and its got to get out. I hope it helps you do the same, thats the whole point of art to me. If you like what I am doing and want it to grow, please feel free to share my blogs, buy my new book pillar of salt for yourself or a friend, shout me out in an instagram story, whatever. I am not doing this strictly for attention, but attention is always nice and helps me grow whatever the hell I am growing here. thank you so much for the people who constantly show love, you guys are too much sometimes.