Soapbox: Is Art an Idol?

 

Life is full of art, don't miss it.
Image from Pixabay. Edits by me.

The other day I saw a quote on Pinterest that got tangled up in my brain. No amount of wishing, or thinking, or pondering sponged it away. I batted at it. Hissed at it. Ignored it. It only crossed its arms, stuck out its tongue, rolled its eyes, and remained. So, dear readers, I’m going to write about it. I’m going to write about it because it irritated me so much. I found it so offensive, I couldn’t let it go.

The bad part? I didn’t save it. I can’t find it. I’ve looked and searched all over Pinterest and the internet for it. No such luck. (I must be out of faerie dust.) I can’t give you the exact quote. You’ll have to trust my memory and live with the gist of the quote instead of the exact words.

Here’s the quote that sent me into a tailspin:

You’re an artist. Your art is more important than spotless dishes or a meal for a neighbor. Make your art.

(The wording was a little more “artistic” than that, but that’s basically what it said.)

What?

You’re art is more important than spotless dishes or a meal for your neighbor? Since when did art become the god of our society? Of our hearts? We’ve made art our idol. In our culture if it’s art, if it’s your art, no one can say otherwise. No parent, teacher, spouse, child, or any one can tell you anything negative about the amount of time and effort you put into your art. If they dare, they’re squashing your spirit. “Nobody needs that kind of negativity in their lives.”

That’s the artist culture. That’s that kind of things artist tell other artists.

How selfish can we be? How self-absorbed?

Instead of making sure my family has clean dishes, I should let them get sick because my writing is more important than their health. If my neighbors or friends are struggling, I’m off the hook on helping them cause I wanted to write this morning? The fake people in my head are more important than the real people around me?

This is the kind of thing people pin when they’re feeling guilty about how they’re treating fellow human beings. Art isn’t more important than people. Art isn’t the height of human experience. It is a gift, a part of human experience. It is one of the many facets that make us human.

Everything in life is art.

Many women think they aren’t artistic, but their homes are beautifully decorated and very welcoming. They love to host teas and shower people with food and drink. I know women who don’t think they’re artistic who make beautiful quilts, or sew their own clothes, or grow beautiful gardens. I know women who cook healthy and delicious meals. All of that is art. Every element of life is art. Have you ever worked on a project where you didn’t have the choice of creating beauty?

You make choices. Choices are the root of creativity.

Painting, drawing, writing, and music aren’t the only art forms. They don’t sit up on a higher pedestal than someone who can raise chickens. They communicate emotionally to the soul, yes, but so does a tree. So does a well landscaped front yard. So do clean dishes.

Once we start regulating art to only painting, drawing, writing, and music, once we see it as only something a few of us can do, and once we see it as more important than all of life, we’ve made it a god. And any god other than God is a tyrant.

Try it. Try putting art above all and watch your marriage crumble. Watch your children grow up alone and filled with bitterness. You may create beautiful things, the world may sing your praises, but they will go home to their safe, warm beds where someone took the time to do the laundry (another art form) and they will sleep peacefully together.

Don’t make a gift from God an idol. Don’t let it run your life to the detriment of everything else, and don’t sell yourself short. Open your eyes to the art that is all around you! Don’t believe the lie that only a few special people are artistic. (Granted, there are a few special people who are Michelangelo, but only a few. And artist like him do give up almost all for their art. Make sure this is what you want to do.) If you’re making a choice, you have the chance to be creative. Creativity is often useful, found in the home, and welcoming to those around us. Creativity isn’t afraid to sacrifice for others. If you have an artistic gift, use it. Use it in all of life, but don’t believe the lie that all of life should bow down before your art form of choice.

“I’m an artist!” they exclaim loudly.

Art, artistic-ness, creativity, on a certain level is ordinary. You aren’t a special unicorn who magically has art that some suburban mom raising three kids while managing her home doesn’t have. You paint, or write, or make music, or YouTube videos, while she washes clothes, getting spots out that are unidentified. She makes meals that both taste good and are nourishing. She cleans a house quickly and efficiently. She spends her free time teaching her daughter to sew. Or maybe she just enjoys taking pictures of her girls. She manages budgets, meals, laundry, and education. She oversees the decorating and improving of all that is around her. Every element of her life is art, for she is making choices every moment of every day for beauty instead of squalor.

Artists hate to think of themselves as ordinary.

This world hates to think of anything, especially ourselves as ordinary, but we must find balance between the ordinary and the unicorns, or we miss out on the magic of this life.

Because art speaks so strongly to the soul, we want to believe it is special. But, if we’re not careful all we do is take away the beauty of the every day. We take away enjoying a sunrise on our back porch with a cup of coffee. We take away the joy of the art of making a good cup of coffee because that’s something most of us do every day. We lose the art of the home when we say the home isn’t a well spring of creativity. If art is only regulated to one or two extra-gifted people, then the rest of life becomes a gray monotony of boredom.

If art is in every choice, if every choice is seen as a chance to grasp at beauty, to be creative, then the world around us, the mundane, becomes magical. We begin to share different artistic gifts. You make quilts. I write stories. She bakes cakes. He grows roses. We can share, bathe, in the beauty of different gifts. The mundane again, becomes magical.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t make art more than it is, and don’t miss out on the art around you. It’s not an idol. It’s a gift. Use it. Enjoy it. Seek it out in its brown garb and its golden gown. See both! Open your eyes to the joy of spotless dishes and a meal created in love and shared with others. There is your art, my dear friends. There is the art of the everyday. There is the artist in us all.

Quote taken from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.
Quote taken from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.

 

 

 

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Why read steampunk, or fantasy?

Why Steampunk?

Why is Steampunk so much fun to write?
Picture from Pixabay. Edits by me.

I have to admit right up front that I’m not a Steampunk purest. I don’t have a good enough head for science and machines to really be a Steampunk purest. I’m a Steampunk poser. There. I admitted it.

The thing is, I love Steampunk. The first time I saw it it was like I found myself. I went through a real Goth stage in my early twenties, but as I got older I had a hard time with its morose-ness. I like melancholy, but I don’t like emo that much, and I don’t like the nihilistic-ness of cyber punk. Goth doesn’t age well. There is nothing graceful about it. In reality, I liked wearing black clothes, enjoyed “elvish” sadness of the world, and the hints of Victorian clothing that snuck into the gothic look. Also, I liked vampires…but that’s a whole other story.

As I grew out of Goth, Steampunk came on the scene. It had the Victorian flare that I liked, but instead of the depression and rebellion, and, honestly, selfishness of the Goth vibe, it had adventure, exploration, and….goggles. It has goggles.

Once I started getting into Steampunk I started to see different elements of it in movies and books, even going back into childhood stories. (Think Johnny Depp’s Sleepy Hollow. So Steampunk.) Annie Oakley and Amelia Earhart were both childhood heroes and they both work with the Steampunk vibe. I guess you could say I’m a Steampunk fashion lover. But, I also love the spirit of Steampunk. It captures the sense of adventure of Jules Vern all the way up to WW2. The world is a wide open space filled with things never seen before by man or woman. Adventure! I even love the more edgy Steampunk anarchy stuff. The world has fallen and mercenaries hunt down monsters in the dark with flashlights and unusual guns, all dressed in a strange mix of western, Native American, trash, and a bit of oriental flare. It’s very western. It captures that magical time when the world wasn’t all explored and exotic races started mixing with good, old-fashioned, English blood. Or English blood mixed with the exotic, ancient races. Either way, things were newer, fresher. Times were exciting.

Why read steampunk, or fantasy?
Image from Pixabay. Edits by me.

 

Different is intriguing. It’s fun to think of using steam power instead of electricity. It’s fun to imagine the skies filled with zeppelins instead of airplanes. It’s fun to imagine dressing up in long skirts, top hats, gloves, boots that button up the side, and a monocle. All these exaggerated, imaginary things make us look at our own world through fresh lenses. It soaks into our ordinary lives and helps us face the day with an adventurous spirit, imagining everyone around us on a quest. It gives us hope that monsters can be defeated by men and women in leather bracers, boots, and blunderbusses.

As you can tell, I find Steampunk inspiring ascetically.

It turns up in my stories all the time. So many characters with goggles, cool guns, bikes, and even some automatons.  When I look for characters I end up posting people in top hats, newsies and driving caps, gold engraved rifles, cool tattoos, gas masks. I love that you can go from dystopian to futuristic. I love hot air balloons. I love the WW2 feel and the Victorian feel that you can mix and match.

For all of the above reasons, when I’m working on a setting for any of my stories, I tend to go Steampunk over medieval. I find historically accurate stories to be constricting. I love to read them, but I don’t like to write them. I want a little room to make things up. (And in my family, we don’t make history up.) Even my urban Fantasies tend to have the magical creatures dressing more Steampunk, or being very Steampunk in their TrueSelf forms.

I hope to blend this in a bit more with my Children’s Faerie Stories. I don’t think it’s coming out as strongly in them as it does in my YA books. They tend to have a bit more of the English garden fairy, or other-worldly fae-faeries about them.

Over the years, I plan to keep learning about the mechanics behind automatons and old revolvers. I want my descriptions, and the ‘physics’ of the world to be more realistic and logical, instead of just sorta made up. J I know most Purist will see my knowledge as very surface level, but I hope you, dear readers, enjoy my Steampunk flavor as much as I do.

Do you like Steampunk? Are you familiar with its look? What’s your favorite Steampunk story?