“I have always thought that to be a truly great artist one must first of all be a truly great person, not wholly the victim of the contemporary scene, but gifted with hope and vision for the future. As the role of science is to minimize the range of uncertainties, so I view the role of the arts as a charge to comprehend, interpret, and dramatize the certainties and their promise.
Where there is no vision the people perish. Science has enormously enlarged our vision, but it will become our common heritage only as it is made manifest by the creative artist.”
-Paul B. Sears, from Edge of Awareness
“The artist concerned to do nothing but express himself is not necessarily a criminal, but he shares that quality with the criminal.”
-Paul B. Sears quoting a French architect
“The first study of a man who wants to be a poet is his self-knowledge, complete; he looks for his own soul, he inspects it, he tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it. That seems simple: in every mind a natural development takes place. So many egoists proclaim themselves authors; there are many others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! But the soul has to be made monstrous: after the fashion of the comprachicos, if you like! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face.”
I want to see the sunrise this morning. It has been years since I last waited for it in the cold of my Washington air. I remember it was 2008, and I had been dreaming of the day I would lose my father to the inevitable mortality we all face. I lost a lot of sleep that year because of those dreams, but this one had been vivid. I could taste the hospital air and see its ugly carpet. So I went outside and shivered to pass the time until the sun came up.
Back then we had a broken, green van in our yard. It was filled with boxes, a tool box so heavy I could barely move it, and an old, brown rug that I used to run around on as a toddler. Before, when I was little, I remember day dreaming during trips to see grandparents in that van. Half-asleep, huddled on a tire in the back because it had no seats, I imagined loving people that would never love me back. I was the hero though, and I didn’t care. I only needed to protect them, and that was good enough. For a small while then, I think I could have become the good guy. Life doesn’t always trickle out the way we think.
I watched the sun come up and mingle with the fog as I sat on top of that old van. Everything was wet, and I was making an uncomfortable indent in the metal roof. It made me feel like a stranger, in a place he shouldn’t be, and I felt some peace. My mind imagined the day I would lose my father, and dismissed it as an impossible thing. And for a moment, it felt like I was close to being the good guy.
After a year of little sleep and dreams I didn’t want to see, 2009 came and the impossible happened. I tasted hospital air and stared for hours at ugly carpet. I watched a fish tank and, though I’m sure it was full of life, I couldn’t see a single fish. Eventually, I saw the hero of this story cry a tear and go whiter than I’d ever seen skin go. The wrong world won, the hero lost, and without him I became just another stranger
This morning, when I see the sunrise, and feel the cold Washington air, I won’t be thinking of bad dreams. Bad dreams are for the good guy, and that’s not me anymore. When a hero dies, we see the thing that a wrong world needs, and it has nothing to do with goodness.
“Behind every answer, they must see a question; behind every light, they must see a shadow.”