Sunday, February 20, 2011

Creativity and Unrest

While walking around the old neighborhood, I found myself grateful for the lack of rain. As always the case when walking, right? To be honest, I don't really mind the rain. I think Portland, at least the old northwest neighborhood is beautiful no matter the weather. But don't things look better when wet?
I'd come from a relaxing time sipping coffee at Anna Banana's. Somehow drinking coffee there makes me feel like the old times are here again, only now they are more interesting and promise a greater reward.
The unemployment rate here in Portland is pretty high. It might be high all over Oregon, or the entire Pacific Northwest for that matter. In Portland proper, I've heard two figures. 10% from some and over 20% from other sources. It's grim enough at the lower figure. I suspect that the rate of underemployment is pretty high too. So, I wonder why things aren't worse? I mean, I was walking through the neighborhood and the shops were all open, it looked like people were dining in the restaurants. Who knows?
The questions remains: what are people doing with their time?

Why does it seem like people are still driving huge vehicles, which I doubt are paid off, and why do people seem like they are still the hogs in the fat house?
At Powell's Books, I wandered through the shelves and rows of books. Believe me, it seems endless at Powell's. It could rival the famed library at Alexandria. People are reading, I thought. There were people everywhere leafing through volumes of culture, horticulture; subculture, counterculture and popculture. It really was an inspiring experience.
Back out on the sidewalk, I took to downtown. The sun had peaked through the clouds. People littered the sidewalks. They were catching some rays from the distant February sun, or they were getting lungs full of fresh just finished raining air. Another inspiring moment and if no other reason than how peaceful it felt.
But are we peaceful?
The unrest in Egypt, and uncertainty in Bahrain, not to mention the conflicts we're involved in between Iraq and Afghanistan really aren't that far away that we overlook them, are they? How about this: here at home our financial position is grim, the newspapers tell us so. Companies are folding, municipalities are broke and filing for bankruptcy. We can't afford to keep schools open.
It seems like wast of time to belabor all of this because there are plenty of books to read and some February sun to enjoy.
Then it occurs to me, where are our artists, our musicians, our writers right now? Are they in unemployment lines or are they fortunate enough to have jobs? The next question: are they producing work to fulfill the mood of the world today? Are the artists getting edgy in their depictions of the world? Are they making light of reality or are they making reality light? And our writers? Are they attacking the course of events in daring ways? I don't know if they are, where are they doing this? How are they getting it done?
Eric Blair, or as we know him, George Orwell, had great thought. He had very furious social and political thought. This came to his writing later in his life. In a curious book of his, and one of my favorites, Down and Out in Paris and London, the young Orwell tells his story of unemployment and poverty. This memoir of his misadventures in both Paris and London were possibly the forming events that sparked other thoughts. Those thoughts became Animal Farm and 1984.
Today, times are uncertain and everything feels fragile. So, I pose this question today: Are our artists and writers out there forming thoughts that won't come to fruition for another ten to fifteen years? It's a call to arms for them. As we continue these days, these modern days of uncertainty, will thoughts generated now go down on pulp and canvas to serve as lessons for all humanity? Let's hope so. And for the artists and writers out there, go outside and play, see the world, the beauty and the ugly. Make a record of it. Mark art edgy again, make startling discoveries and populate the shelves of Powell's with volumes of our times. Line the halls of museums with new images. We got plenty of time for it.

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