Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.  – Gloria Steinem

Once, I heard someone say that all the greatest artists were druggies. This person was not talking to me, but in my overhearing, I began to wonder; is any artistic destiny I may have had now ruined because my parents were anti-LSD?

I have only ever gotten high twice—really high once. Neither experience seemed to lend itself to me becoming especially artistically talented. This may in part be related to the fact that I spent most of the first time throwing up and most of the second time sleeping.

But here’s my theory: Without regard to drugs, artists are dreamers.

I have a feeling that sometimes, they lose control, and that then their minds run away with them, tumbling down conspicuously green knolls in a torrential rain that serves the exceptional purpose of joining the soul and the body in a moment of time when genius can grab hold long enough to be formulated into expression, escaping and astonishing all of the rest of us who somehow missed the appropriate moment to tumble. I have a feeling that these are gripping falls, and totally unwieldy.

If it is true that my mind has engaged in this sort of diving and utterly accidental descent, then I submit to you that it is a dream-like state—not in the moment, but after it.

Artists are daydreamers and night sweaters, zoner-outers and sleeper-inners. They have a release button for their brains that works like automatic pilot on a space ship. What that actually means, though, is that it never really works, it’s like Start Trek; always supposed to work seamlessly and always requires that you take over and fly manually at the last minute. So artists press the release button, thinking that it’s just time to let go, let the muse in and their consciousness out, and all of a sudden they are sucked into the driver’s seat, trying to steer while speeding like hell down the Audubon, not even sure how they ended up in Germany.

Until recently, I really wanted nothing to do with the Artist title. Art is now offensively melodramatic for its intentional egotism. Over and over, it is the articulation of the selfish experience. I always wanted to be more than a youthful, rebellious title. And it’s not that art has always been this way; its history is audacious. It has predicted and participated in dramatic shifts of social consciousness. I believe in Don Quixote and Frida Kahlo, Little Women and Picasso.

It may be that the proliferation of self-examination made me a cynic. It may be that I simply cannot resolve the dissonance of Maya Angelou and me, sharing a descriptive term.

In any case, I am sure of one thing. They weren’t all just trippin. I don’t buy it.


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