A Gentle Validation of the Artist’s Burden (and of All Who Seek Awakening)

by bryan maynard


Sunday night, my wife and I were visiting with friends over red sauce and pasta, listening with an admiring fascination to their daily dilemma. They exist between the polarizing demands of making a living and of living as the genuine creative types that they are. It can be maddening at times. One of the friends said, “Someone in my family made me promise that I would be an artist. It was my uncle. He was an artist, but he became a stock broker to make a living and he said he has regretted it his whole life. He said to me, ‘Promise me that you will be an artist. Promise!’.”

They are artists. Artists are like onions: peel one layer away and you get artist at the next layer and the next. I think that’s why artists are tormented souls. They cannot NOT see and feel and hear and taste because their inner essence leans toward the “getting at” the inherency of things, the integrity of things.

They live in a similar process with all of us who seek to awaken to the present moment: the painful process of learning to see with new eyes and to hear with new ears. And this too is its own kind of torment when it comes to ‘making it’ in this world.

It just so happened that two days after our visit with the artist friends that I came across the autobiography of Thomas Merton. Merton tells us of his father that he was an artist. A good one. But I was particularly drawn to Merton’s observation about his father as an artist living in this world. Merton’s assessment of his artistic father would apply to all artists and to all who seek to awaken to the ‘truth’ of things. So, take this thought as a gentle validation of the struggle to be creative and/or to awaken to higher consciousness. Merton said,

The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.

Be encouraged! For you are an onion!!