Around the time I wrote the last update about my hiatus, I ran into an “Ask Adam Anything” video where someone asked Adam Savage (Mythbusters), “How do you deal with success?” This question sent me down a deep rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting. How does this tie into my art hiatus? Please read on… TL;DR at bottom.
He explained that Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) gave a TED Talk about success and failure, and how both are extreme ends of being “centered.” Both results can be bad for you despite the fact culturally we are wired to think being successful is all good. Essentially she was saying that you always want to get back to center.
Both videos were thought provoking, but I moved on. Immediately after watching her TED Talk, I switched gears and watched the documentary, “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man”, and this is where things took a turn.
The documentary was great on many levels, but in the middle it talked about how a lot of Bill Murray’s film roles have a common theme, which all revolve around the “It Just Doesn’t Matter” mindset. Hell, even in the movie MEATBALLS, he gave a huge speech about that very thing. The person in the documentary then talked about an old Daoist story that ties into this mindset. Here is my transcription from the documentary:
“There’s an old man who has a prized horse, and one day the horse runs away. His neighbor comes over to give his condolences and says, “I’m so sorry about your horse” and the old man says, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” and the neighbor is confused because this was his prized horse, and so the neighbor leaves and the next day the horse returns and he brings back with him twelve feral horses.
Now the guy’s rich with horses, and the neighbor comes over and says, “Congratulations, you have all these horses”, and the old man says, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” And the neighbor’s confused again because clearly this is great. The next day, the old man’s son is teaming one of the horses and is thrown and he breaks his leg. The neighbor comes over, “I’m so sorry to hear about your son” and the old man says again, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”
And the next day, the army comes through and is conscripting able bodied young men to go fight off in war, and his son is spared. And that story can go on and on and on, but the point of that story is “It just doesn’t matter”, right? Most of us go through life up and down. Things are great, things are terrible, things are great, things are terrible, but a deeper way of looking at it is good things can lead to bad things and bad things can lead to good things, and if you have this “It just doesn’t matter”, this zen if you will, outlook on it, you can sort of see the big picture of it, your whole life is just going to be more even keeled.”
Any other day of the week I would have blown past this, but the fact I just watched two back to back videos literally thirty something minutes earlier that talked about the same exact thing was more than enough of a flag that God wanted me to get something out of it.
This leads me down a philosophical road with everything I’ve gone through with this art hiatus.
When I first started to make a serious effort at an art career where I could do it for a living, time and time again I would hit road blocks. On the surface it didn’t seem like a big deal, plus I had the drive to push through it out of sheer stubbornness and determination. However, when it happens frequently and spans several years, you start to see patterns.
Up to this point I considered myself a failure for not being able to turn a dream into a reality, but if the road blocks were intentionally placed by God because I wasn’t ready, then did I really fail?
I’ve read A LOT about being in the desert, and I’m currently reading a book by Eddie Broussand called, “Beauty In The Desert.” There is one particular paragraph that struck me, in relation to the Israelites being in the desert for forty years.
“Israel’s dependence had been on Egypt and themselves; in the desert they could depend on neither. To break this God went after something that would get their attention. Hunger is one of our primary human drives for survival. If we don’t eat we will die. When God withheld their food, he didn’t just take away something they needed; he created in them a sense of desperation. The specter of desperation creates a student who is ready to learn.”
Now replace “food” with “art” and “Israel” with “Todd.” He took away the one thing that has mattered to me almost my entire life to really get my attention, and that was creating art. My drive to make a career of it was getting in the way of God’s plans for me. I’m not saying that the creation of art is in the way, just my obsession with trying to get the most likes, the most shares and the most sales. In effect, the most recognition, something all artists want.
So here I am in my personal desert, not able to make art, attempting (badly) to “sense” God and not just “listen” for Him, and also being told what I’m going through “just doesn’t matter” in the grand scheme of things. Where does this leave me?
I wish I knew.
The biggest agitator for me, if you will, is the social media side of things. That’s where I would frequently post art updates to the sound of crickets and get angry over it. Do I need to close down all my art related social media pages? Do I just create art that God only sees or expand that to include my website and newsletters? At this point I don’t know. I wish this article had a better ending than this as there’s so many uncertainties at this point.
I wish I could explain this in terms non-believers would understand. If you’ve been reading these updates and you’re in that camp, you probably think this is stupid and I’m just wasting my time. Nothing I say will convince you otherwise and I’m fine with that. I’m not here to preach to you and change your mind. What I am doing is sharing my walk with God as I struggle through all of this, so I thank you all the same for reading it.
As always stay tuned for the next part of this as I pray I’m not in my desert for forty years. Want to know my biggest fear? Read about it in part five HERE
TL;DR: Todd watched three videos that gave him context on his art hiatus, the biggest take away was from Bill Murray’s “It Just Doesn’t Matter” speech in MEATBALLS. He also shares a Daoist story and a recipe for cornbread.