I have struggled to put my thoughts in order, to build cohesive crossovers between my areas of interest. But I was always sure that I was looking for a unifying theory. Projects accumulate, and moments pass, time rolls forward, and things don’t come together. But I work, and I press and I struggle. Or, at least thats what I thought was happening.┬áLast week it was suggested to me that I am not missing my unifying theory, that I am not subtly under-committed, but rather my work is suffering from fear.
I have been living this week with the idea that, “You might be afraid of what it is you can do.” The unfortunate conclusion I am drawing is that this could be my best unifying theory thus far. In many ways I have avoided and derailed and distracted from the reality I need to face. The fact of the matter is that as energizing and fun as the work can be, it is terrifying. I have stayed with just a foot in the water because it is only the craft that is energizing and fun. The art, the self-exploration, the self-exposition, the joy and anger, the sadness and the fear are painful and draining.

When I have traveled the paths of artistic truth they have been fearful and angry. The depth to which I can delve is limited in my trust, my belief that I can return to my sanity. The domestication of life in society protects us all from the voices that speak in our bones. To borrow a phrase from great lyricist “We’re branded with a secret in a language we can’t read.” I have taken the effort to come to terms with this fact, but I often feel that I was never meant to translate these secrets. They claim they can only ever be understood in their own original language. Therefore following their meanings as they develop will begin to distance one from his sanity, safety, and domestication. Distance from domestication is not all bad, and indeed it can be very pleasant. However, the fear that as you follow down the path of truth you begin to lose track of your way back to the place you know, the place where you are stable is a fear that should not be underestimated. There is a stereotype of artists, especially among young male artists, that we can be dangerous to ourselves, that we drink, do a lot of drugs, and have illicit casual affairs. There was a time I thought I was simply a more practical, mature, stable person than some of my peers. Today I am discovering that I have simply never chosen to give myself up to the current of the fearsome truths that play havoc with these less fortunate characters. In this light it must be said I am glad I haven’t. However, the pain and fear persist, I have not followed the road before me fearing I will neither recall the path back nor find safe passage through.

Learning and turmoil, the boiling in your gut when you do not know the answers. When you know neither the way nor the goal, you can only step forward if you cannot stay where you are. So I remain living within the confines of my fear and slowly, carefully, with waning patience, I am pressing its borders.

3 thoughts on “Fear”

  1. I love this post. Fear is the greatest obstacle to overcome in the search for free expression, no matter what sphere you’re moving in. Dancers, painters, writers, singers, open water swimmers….where we seek to go, we meet ourselves along the way and stare into the depths of our own mortality and fear. I love how aware you are of this process, because it’s often not discussed. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, I’m very glad you enjoyed the post. If you’re really into this topic, check out “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He’s almost gut-wrenching-ly direct, but if you are like me and you have demons to stare down in getting to your most important work I think his perspective can be extremely motivating.

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