I started getting more invested in Twitter this month, and as such, I’ve been following a bunch of my favorite celebrities and fangirling like crazy.
While going through the tweets of one actor I crush real hard on (not to be confused with stalking the guy…), I found a tweet he shared on election night which was very encouraging and resonated with most of his followers. Most of them thanked him for sharing his kind thoughts and also shared their own lamentations and fears. I found the fact that he said something very uplifting to me and was thankful I had come across it.
One person, however, didn’t seem to share our sentiments. Instead, she had this to say:
“Actors and simply creative people should be out of Politics.”
And this comment threw this passionate writer into a huge tizzy.
There is nothing simple or plain about being creative.
No one writes, photographs, acts, directs, or makes anything simply or idly, nor do they create art intended to be dismissed with the wave of a hand or consumed without a second thought.
I learned this first and foremost during my time in college theater. My theater director taught me how art, specifically in the form of theater, can change people when he had 20-year old, very conservative me play the role of a young woman who’d just had an abortion. By taking on this, for me, very controversial character, I found myself embodying a scenario that turned an issue into a human being. By taking on that persona, however briefly, my perspective shifted in significant ways, and how I deal with the topic forever changed.
This is what good art does, and there is nothing simple about it. Making art calls the creator to make something that won’t regurgitate but talk back and then ask the audience to do the same. To be creative is to touch life in intimate ways. It is to free a story from the mind and make it alive and active in the world, and it calls the maker to wear someone else’s skin like it’s their own, even when it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world.
During Advent, we remember the prophets who called Israel to repent from their evil ways and corrupt systems of worship and politics, and we remember how Israel ignored them and fell. We remember how the prophets looked at their fallen land and proclaimed the coming of a future Messiah who would make all things new, and we remember how hopeless such an idea seemed then and seems today. At Christmas, we will celebrate the fulfillment of those prophecies in the Incarnation, when God our immortal, powerful Creator took on fallible, mortal flesh to live among us, to hear our stories, to tell them back to us, and then challenge us to live in new ways.
Our “simply creative” people are not mere entertainers. They, too, are prophets.
They, too, call us to repent from our evil ways through film, theater, song, written word, poetry, and pictures. They present stories to us to remind us of our common, brutal, and beautiful humanity, and then ask that we reimagine what life could be like. They take on our flesh, however foreign it may be to them, in order to tell our stories. They make connections, patterns, and purpose where there seems to be only chaos, confusion, and disconnect. They wake people up, push them into action, give them comfort, and help them face the day.
They are political, because they care about people. To be political is to be involved in the “affairs of the city,” that is, to be involved with our fellow human beings. In the midst of societal difficulties, we need the artists’ voices now more than ever. We need them to make art which calls us to repentance lest we continue to hurt each other in the same ways. We need to remember we are made for more than destroying and cutting down. We need to remember the importance of storytelling and the beauty all around us.
That’s why we mourn people like Robin Williams, Prince, and David Bowie. We miss their talent, but more than that, we miss what they had to teach us. We miss the new perspectives they gave us through a lyric or a line. We miss the beauty they asked us to notice and the hope and joy they gave us when everything was dark and dismal. We wonder what else they could have showed and taught us when their voices are snatched away. We remember the truths they uncovered and revealed to us.
We both see the world for what it is and what it could be because of them, and this is what makes them prophets.
So if you’re one of those “simply creative people,” don’t let others tell you this means you have less of a voice.
Speak louder, and keep creating.
Keep putting yourself out there in all of your vulnerable, beautiful talent and humanity. Keep making the world uncomfortable, because the only way things will change is when people finally deal with that discomfort. Keep uniting people around your art and reminding them that we are human, we are fallible, and we are better than our worst bullshit.
Keep getting mad when we treat each other like crap. Keep rallying behind your causes. Keep encouraging us to be kind and loving. Keep telling us about your passions, creative, political, and otherwise.
We need your voices.
Because they are what keep us going and changing.
The books, movies, songs, plays, paintings, photographs, all of the art you make reminds us there is beauty, there is hope, there is a way to make sense of all this and move forward, making it all into something new and beautiful.
So don’t be silenced.
Be bold. Be brave.