“The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” – Rent
I went to visit my friends last Saturday night to discuss an exciting new project. My friend’s apartment building is a high-rise complex right in the heart of our city’s entertainment district. Right across the street is a bar I frequent, with Belgian beers, packed Friday nights, and a fireplace. One either side of the apartment are similar bars.
I was approached by a homeless man, who asked me if I could spare something for the holidays. I told him I couldn’t, and he was ok with that. I asked his name. He told me it was Wandell. There was another panhandler. I’d seen him before. He was getting cussed out by the bartender, who was on the patio, having a smoke. Wandell waited for him to leave to approach another guy also on the patio after me. He didn’t get any money from him, either.
When he left, the man spoke to the bartender saying, “He told me a story about getting jumped by his friends, and I was like, ‘Ok….'”, as he took another drag on his cigarette. “He’s probably not even homeless, he probably lives at the Cadillac.”
The Cadillac Hotel is a welfare house for the homeless and others. It’s juxtaposition with the entertainment district is an irony that has never been lost on me, just a street away from college students and live music, fancy ballrooms and expensive guitars. Often, panhandlers will come from Hotel Cadillac to get money for food or drink from the affluent visitors of the restaurants along the strip, before returning there for the night. I’ve seen them on nights that I perform.
The residents of Cadillac don’t have great things to say about it, either.
“It was always a horrible place to stay. We chose to sleep on the streets rather than to stay here,” said Melanie Gorsch, who has lived at the Cadillac on and off for years.
“Honestly, it’s a dirty place. It really is. It’s not fit to live in,” said David Younger, a former resident whose brother lives at the hotel.
I know they’re telling the truth, because I used to live there, too.
I wasn’t pleased with the way the others had treated the homeless men, but instead of feeling anxious, I connected it to joy instead. I connected it to the elation I had felt just hours ago as my friends and I mapped out our plan for success in our creative venture. I compared it to the feeling of creating something (a business, a novel, a Youtube channel, a song, a play, etc.) and using that thing to accomplish the good you want in the world.
It all came down to this. Many artists and others clamor in the world because they don’t know the truth: The world is never going to change. Never. You have to change.
This is the only truth and the only artistic truth.
It’s easy to feel distressed by the state of the world until you understand that you have no control over it, and no responsibility to mend it. The world is a much more vast place than the limits of your actions. You’re not supposed to change the world. No one asked you to. You are supposed to change yourself.
What this means for the artist is understanding that creation is joy. Many times, in the past weeks, I’ve given way to a despondency that stopped me from writing, from posting videos, from making the things that I usually make. However, turning from those things in times of trouble is the exact opposite of what is required. Sitting with my friends and hatching a new plan for a joint enterprise made me feel good, because creation is joy.
And when you do create, include others. Think about how you can use your art to benefit the people that you want, whether it be the homeless, battered women, children with learning disabilities, charities, refugees, etc. There are many ways in this world to help. But it’s not about healing the world. It’s about healing you.
When you do what it is you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll bring the joy you seek.
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