The birds just started squawking outside, cockatoos or galahs. And I know it’s because I have used a tabloid title – lowering my standards to that of the Murdoch press. No, I’m not talking about crazy voices. It’s not crazy to seek – or sit quietly – and hope to hear a voice from within. Often it murmurs, not even in words, but if we are calm it is a feeling we get. And I’m reminded of Dante at the beginning of the Inferno when he finds himself in a dark forest. It is in mid-life that we are called to assess our progress and direction, to reflect on the previous decades. I must say, though, I’m not ‘normal’ in this regard. I never followed the path I was meant to – by the standards of society or my parents. I chose to be an artist, or it chose me, even before I left school. And I know many of my ilk. But, still, we find ourselves in midlife assessing our direction – often for reasons that are different to our peers who fulfilled the roles expected of them.
I felt sure that ANU was the future for me. What could be more credible than some initials after my name from the finest institute in Australia? It is what I want, and I was striving, but stumbling, in that direction. But now I have stopped. And an amazing thing happens when you stop upon your path – suddenly you see other vistas. You see the landscape around you. You see where you have come from – and, if you are lucky – you see the path ahead that you must tread.
I don’t want to speak too soon. It is too early to tell. I need time out, time to reflect and ponder. I have always known I was an artist, even as I wore this student hat and struggled with academic rules. I would still be striving if not for my health – but it is my health that speaks honestly – as the symptoms in my body, and my mind, tell me that a change is coming. Another change. I have had many of these.
If I have something to say, if I want to speak – then what is it I want to say? And is it a truth that others can hear? That can enhance the life of others? This is all that an artist aspires to. We speak the truth in another manner. We are not Dennetts with science backing our words. We are mystics, with images from the unconscious floating through us. And when others grasp those images they see shadows of themselves – deeper reflections of themselves. And their lives become clearer.
This is meaningful too. This is where the fruits of life blossom. This is where we are nourished.
I don’t know what to say. When I see pictures of my past, my life, at first I feel excitement and then an overwhelming sadness for the pain. There must be lessons here, but who wants to hear them?
Do you think the generations below us ever want to know what we have seen? Do our peers care to relive that past? Do those above want to know why we became the people we are – why we went the way we did? And it all made so much sense at the time. Amongst the madness. It all felt so real, so true. We were gifts from God, speaking in tongues, trying to forge new paths in unexplored terrain. And we got wounded, and we wept. But I still believe, that all that time, it was honest and sincere. Our search was of the soul, and from the soul. And whatever truths we did encounter, they were the soul’s truths.
Artists are not revered in our community, and this is such a shame. As we battle against our natures – feeling ourselves somehow inferior. But why? Why should we shy away from the truth within us? Why should we feel so lowly?
This was my mistake. To forget the potency of our livelihood. We may not be paid, society may doubt the value of our work – and yet, how can society survive without our voice? What point is there to life without individuals with the courage to search their souls – to touch the darkness and the light? To explore the intensity that lives within us all? Don’t we speak for everyone? I always thought we did.
Enough from me. I need to know, once more, what it is my soul is saying. What is it that my soul wantsto say. Because this must be the greatest gift we can give. This must be why I am here. And if a detour through the corridors of academia makes that voice stronger, then so be it. The years spent were not in vein.
I feel it now, that voice inside me, it wants to speak. It will just take time. I must listen quietly. It has been so long since I have listened. But I know something is there. And the greatest mistake is not valuing the will of the gods to sing.
For they must sing. Humanity cannot exist without their song.
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