Archive for May, 2012

The Artist

I attended a graduation ceremony this past Saturday at the Maine College of Art, in Portland. I found all of the speakers deeply inspiring. They spoke of the value of the artist and the art they create. They also spoke from experience about the power of exploration and creativity, reminding me not to worry about the end result but rather focus on the process of finding inspiration and letting it flow. As someone who views Druidry as a religion of creativity, so much of what was shared rang through with beauty and truth.

After the ceremony concluded we went to a view the senior thesis works at the Porteous building. I have to say I was blown away with most everything I saw. The sheer newness and beauty and truth in the artworks on display was greatly heartening – so much courage on display! It was a good reminder that the best work isn’t hanging in the famous museums. It is being crafted right now by some unknown artist caught up in the flow of awen.

It was well understood by the faculty, staff and students that the artist has never been valued less in this society than now. Funding is being cut everywhere. Society doesn’t care about anything unless it is marketable. Our whole economy focused society seems to be about maximizing the short-term gain. We manufacturing things in the least expensive manner, giving no thought to making something that last. There is no thought of the next generation. In fact redundancy is built in so things have to be replaced. This is where we find ourselves. And the role of the artist has never been so important.

Today’s artist present the truth of the situation, exposing it in a way that bypasses the filters we all use. They give us vision to lift us out of this unsustainable anti-human system we have built. They give us inspiration to build a better world. They remind us what it is to be a human being and not a machine. The work of the artist of today is the most relevant of all works of art.

Across the country, colleges and universities are under attack from the forces of Capitalism. The Humanities are being cut in favor of degrees that are glorified job training programs. What does is say of a society when it doesn’t value the Humanities? What kind of world will we live in when their is no one left who knows History; can read the ancient languages; understands the processes of the human mind and our collective philosophies; who have the ability to gain perspective and look to the long term? There are very serious consequences for forgetting where we’ve come from. And so much of what we know of the past is from the works of the artists from those times. Their work gives us insight into the thoughts, desires, social attitudes, religious convictions, hopes and ideals of our ancestors. What will our future generations know of us if we cease to support creativity and the study of it? What will they know of us if the only “art” is that of an advertisement?

Support your local artist and crafts-people. Theirs is a sacred role of both being a mirror and a telescope. They need our support almost as much as we need them.

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Yesterday was the 29th annual Beltane on the Beach at Popham Beach here in Maine. It is our yearly  gathering of a few hundred pagans to celebrate Spring and dance around the maypoles on the beach. Each year that I’ve attended it is always striking just how much change has occurred – in the landscape, in the community and within myself.

Beach erosion is amazing to witness. The relentless movement of the tides, the unstoppable storms and the steady winds along the coast of Maine keep the sands shifting. The land itself losing ground each season to the ever encroaching sea. Our dance has moved up and down the beach from year to year as we seek dry sands to plant our Maypoles. Someday there will be no beach there to dance upon. The echoes of our passing will be drown beneath the cold salt water.

Each year I look forward to seeing the greater pagan tribe, to catching up with familiar faces and sharing our old stories. And yet each year, the faces grow less familiar as our community grows. There are more young people attending, finding their roots in paganism. Some of the pagan children are suddenly pagan men and women. And I wonder, “when did that happen”? Equally striking is the absence of some of our elders who can’t make the journey anymore. The new generation can’t feel their absence. And those of us with a longer history look around hoping to see someone who isn’t there.

And each year I find myself asking, “who am I in this place at this time”? Last year’s difficulties or victories have long since lost their hold on me. I look in the mirrors all around me, those of us who have been walking this path for a lifetime, and I see the wrinkles and grey hair. I am not alone. And while the dance has continued, I find my relationship to it has changed. I see my sense of the land has shifted as the sands have shifted. I find the song of my own soul has modulated, old harmonies falling off as new harmonies and discordance have come into the music that is my life.

Some day I will be one those who can no longer make the journey. All of us share this same commonality. As I said, the echoes of our passing will be drown out by the sound of crashing waves. And that is beautiful and fitting.

The Wheel turns and change is the only constant. Such is the nature of Nature. Such is the truth of relationship. We have nothing to hold to but the moment. And yet, we can find certainty within the change. We have our traditions. We have our gods and the inspiration they share with us as we commune. We have each other and the beauty we craft along the way. And that is no small thing.

Beltane blessings,
Snowhawke /|\

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