A friend of mine who recently released an album of his original songs expressed his frustration at what seemed to be a lack of interest and support for what was a labour of love and quite a good album. As artists and human beings, we want our gifts of art and beauty to be recognized - that is as it should be I think, and the last half of the equation of creativity - someone to appreciate the art.
Our tribal and nomadic ancestry, the only way we humans have essentially lived, except for the revolutions in agriculture and industrialization, evolved our desire for community and interdependency. A medicine man, an artist or musician in a nomadic tribe would have had the role, among other roles, of pointing to the subtle beauty and mystery of life in song, dance, or painting.
With the explosion in population due to the agricultural revolution, our world became settled, compartmentalized, and monetized. We now speak of the value of beauty in dollars, and we measure success in hits on a website, sales of our gifts, and worldwide recognition - to be celebrated.
Our desire for widespread, even planetary recognition of our gifts is inversely proportional to how little real community, interdependence and attention we have left.
The question is raised “how does one become successful in the (music, art, yoga) industry? Our planet has billions of humans that can transfer information - art, music, dance, writing - instantaneously. Many of those humans wish to share their gifts. How much can your personally receive? For me, almost none. I’m too busy trying to share my own gifts most of the time.
The desire for recognition is a desire for love, and to be seen for who you are at a deep level, beneath culture, gender, age, income or race. We need this more and more because we’ve shifted so far from our true connection to who we are. One of the things we are is our relationship to who and what is in front of us.
I have musician friends who play to gatherings of more people than live in my village. These friends entertain more people at once than any tribal medicine man, dancer or musician ever did. And they do not consider themselves successful. I’ve felt this way too as a musician. I felt that way because I tried to replace the lost richness of being with recognition and celebrity.
Some of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had as a yoga teacher or musician have been in small groups of people who know how to pay attention. People that came for a reason, to share and receive something of value - a value that cannot be measured in dollars, hits or number of sales.
This model of success is not the model we seem to value right now. The model of success we value is the model that has overfished the oceans, cut down the forests, turned friends into potential multi-level marketing opportunities, wives into trophies and our gifts into commodities. In short, it is the model that has no value. But like a sleepwalker among sleepwalkers, waking up can be a solitary and uncomfortable experience. So my friends, keep making beauty, regardless of who seems to be listening. Your gifts are recognized.