Art is merely perception that challenges existing concepts in a novel fashion.

Okay, then.

Now, I don’t really know what that means but it sounds vaguely artsy. I find it difficult to engage in such broad generalizations. If you want to sell me on a concept I much prefer specifics. Details.

And context. Context carries with it all the importance in the world.

For example, if you were to say to me, “It is better to create than to learn. Creating is the essence of life”, I’d probably think that was an okay bumper sticker.

However, if you then told me that particular quote is by Julius Caesar — well, stop the presses, kids!

This from the guy who created tens of thousands of corpses and oppressed entire nations to build a massive empire, but never learned not to kill people in the process?

Okay, he did give us aqueducts. Hats off for the aqueducts. But otherwise the ludicrous nature of this quote makes it hilarious once you know who said it.

Giving it context makes all the difference.

Einstein was more pithy and succinct: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Now that’s a bumper sticker. Knowing its author really adds gravitas to the words, especially if his picture is on it.

For me the essence of the creative act is a dismissal of all rules save one: Integrity. We are drawn to the creative act because it is so telling of our deepest and most hidden truths.

It is monumentally difficult to create. Most people are stifled by the intimidation of it all. And for those who try and fail, it can be more dispiriting than mere defeat. It is a theft of all enthusiasm that amounts to a wringing out of the soul.

And yet those are the people I admire most. Because they tried.

The ones who continue to try, and then try again and again — those with longing in their bones who open their veins and investigate the depths and still seem to come up dry. Their expression may not discover an audience but it makes their effort no less valuable and their art no less sincere.

I have a weakness for the tryers because I’m of the same cloth. Nothing takes more time or effort or blood or madness or bouts of screaming frustration than trying. No other crushing of the spirit can match the deadening heartbreak of standing in the shadow of true creativity and feeling empty handed.

And still the tryers try.

I do admire them.

They move among us. They’re our neighbors, friends, and dear ones, ever longing for fruitful expression.

That very hunger is the quintessence of art and it drives every creative soul.

Though we may rarely recognize the bloom they have labored to produce, I take heart in the words of A. A. Milne who noted,… “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”





16 thoughts on “Quintessence

  1. I feel you deserve quoting yourself for such a beautiful post.
    “Their expression may not discover an audience but it makes their effort no less valuable and their art no less sincere.”
    This really touched me so much. It reminds me why no attempt at creativity should be met with scorn and to be kinder to myself too.

  2. Beautifully said. What is one man’s weed is another’s salad. Yoda of Star Wars fame said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I think he was talking about mindset. How we approach a task. But, in order to get to “Do” we need to try and try again.

    Thank you for a great post!

  3. Lovely word and lovely post thank you Michael! And the comments say it all.
    (Einstein said: Imagination is more important than knowledge).
    Yes, we all try in our way (though it can be very trying) .. and writing is hard for the writer to get from the inner out into the outer. Stories are meant to be heard and shared as we learn much about others from our listening ear.
    Thank you – great post!

    Susan Scott’s Soul Stuff

    • Thank you, Susan, for your thoughtful reply to my post. I have amended the Einstein post — thanks for pointing that out. I know the quote very, very well and accidentally transposed “Creativity” with “Imagination” in the late night heat of trying to meet a deadline. I’m much better now…. : ]

  4. Michael, Good quote my A.A. Milne to complete your artistry. He certainly knew how to delight with characters that represent tryers as well. We should all admire the tryers for not only do we discover among them the weeds are flowers too, but without them, greatness would never arise, ideas never pop, and there would be nothing to compare those to even to recognize them. God bless, Maria at Delight Directed Living

    • There are tryers and there are critics. I’d always rather be an unsuccessful tryer than a successful critic. You always have the most insightful observations and I dearly appreciate your kind commentary. Great post today, by the way. You’re a fine writer. Cheers.

  5. Wow, beautifully said.

    The tryers are definitely the courageous ones, because they persist. I think we mostly do so, less out of a desire to ‘get it right’ and more because we just have so much in us that we want to express and share. I find poetry to be one of the easiest ways to get something out that I’m harboring deep within; it’s like a release so that I’m not weighted down by whatever the feeling or thought was.

    The Milne quote is great. I love it.

    Have a great day.
    Lyre @ Lyre’s Musings #atozchallenge

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