March 31, 2003

Peace and Creation

Filed under: Art and About Changing the World — admin @ 3:49 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a line from the musical “Rent,” — “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” I’m reminded of it when I see the myriad pictures in the newspaper of Bay Area arts groups organizing exhibits, stage shows and concerts promoting peace and protesting war. As the various music and film awards shows have filed by, those who make a living in the arts have been vocal about their anti-war sentiments. Artists representing peace and politicians representing war are age-old adversaries.

But Jonathan Larson’s lyric stating that creation is the opposite of war has always struck me to be asserting that the creation antidote is more personal, more individual than a high-profile, get-on-the-bandwagon kind of artmaking. Until recently, I had gotten that far in analyzing the phrase by myself. As usual, the artist community in Lamorinda has helped me to make more sense of what I feel is an extremely important edict for all humanity.

First, I received a brochure from Lafayette artist, teacher and healer Jean Anderson telling me about upcoming workshops she is offering. I had the pleasure of experiencing Jean’s integrated approach to art and healing about three years ago when I was writing a story about her work. This is how Jean opens her Spring 2003 newsletter:

“Now, more than ever, we are required to make peace within. It is the war within each of us that must be resolved for humankind and this planet to thrive. Each time I judge myself or another, I am engaged in violence. We must fall madly in love with ourselves and each other to blaze forth with the beauty, love and creativity that we came into this life to express. The time is now, there is no other time.”
It’s a powerful statement, more powerful than the “dead prez” statement on Erykah Badu’s t-shirt at the Grammy awards, or Michael Moore’s “fake war, fake president” tirade at the Academy Awards. I happen to believe that if we all lived our best lives, and that includes all of us in the U.S., in Iraq, in France and in Germany, from the meekest child to the most powerful world leaders, then the destructive drive to make judgments and make war would cease. Like Jean, I believe we discover how to live our best lives through personal creative expression. It’s the ultimate in think globally, act locally.

Days after getting Jean’s mailing, I got my newsletter from the Campolindo High School Music Department. Among the concert announcements was a blurb with no introduction and no follow-up that could possibly be the most profound two-inch page-filler in newsletter history. It asks the question “Why study music?” and then lists the answers, “So you will be more human. So you will recognize beauty. So you will be sensitive. So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good — in short, more life.”

The anonymous author of this little gem has also hit upon the secret of world peace. Sensitivity, love, compassion, gentleness, goodness, beauty, humanity and life are all superb elixirs for the wartime ailments of fear, anger, hatred and suffering. Make music, not war should be on all the protest march signs from now on.

Elena Pang of Orinda said something during an ordinary conversation that completes my dissertation entitled Creation: The Antithesis of War. She said, “The only place we can honor each person’s spirit and their unique expression is through the arts.” If we all honored individual spirit and unique expression, then how could we possibly judge one another, or wage battle against each other? Artistic and creative expression mirrors individual spirit. If we learn to honor our own creativity, and the creativity in others, then the biggest disagreements we should have are the ones that fall under the heading of critique.