Photo: Andrew Medichini/AP/Shutterstock
Bono just made me feel better.
In a recent article by Devon Ivie in Vulture, he said, “maybe that’s the place to be as an artist – you know, right at the edge of your level of embarrassment.”
Does it seem funny that someone like me who, if Instagram is to be believed, has shared 1,152 posts could feel as embarrassed as I am about to tell you I feel nearly constantly, and yet continue to post on a daily basis?
And why am I bringing this up? Shouldn’t the making of art be mysterious? Aren’t the states of inspiration supposed to be fleeting, evanescent as soap bubbles? In a callous and unfeeling world, isn’t our one sure compensation as artists that we feel ourselves to be connected to the numinous in a way that non-artists can only dream of?
Well…if it worked like that, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now.
If the heightened states of consciousness that produce anything -- from a haiku to a song to a meal -- didn’t exist within and around our normal states of consciousness, how could we create anything of use, meaning, anything that can reach into the moment we are living RIGHT NOW and connect us with EVERY moment, as it feels like the great works of art do.
Great art grows out of the artist’s experiences. While (I believe) I have not admired the work of any artist who wasn’t a human being, I know for sure I haven’t met a human being who has not felt the sting of embarrassment. Artist or not, embarrassment is a part of life; and for artists with life as your source material, embarrassment is your friend.
Some of the best things I've ever created have arisen out of a place of being deeply embarrassed that I’m still putting one note, one word, one image in front of the next and the next and the next, the way you undertake the long walk home though you have no idea where home actually is or how long it will take to get there.
It's embarrassing when you start and don’t know if you have something. It's embarrassing in the middle when you've just come up with a line that's so trite it makes you cringe. It's embarrassing the way you think about how other people might respond to what you’re working on, and it's embarrassing when you have to retreat to restock the inspirational pond so you can come back fresh tomorrow.
Maybe Bono has been living on the edge of his level of embarrassment, but I don't think he needs to be embarrassed. I think he has walked the talk and lived his life in alignment with what he believes in. Maybe that is what is embarrassing: to be so bold, so forward, so proud of what you believe in that you dedicate your life to it, that you fight to stay conscious in a world constantly trying to knock you out.
On the other end of embarrassment is pride. Making anything is painstaking, it can be painful, and you know you’re going to go down. But as long as you keep getting back up, you can be proud.
I feel proud of the community I live in, the streets I walk down, my artist friends, and what I make of what they give me. Mostly though, I’m proud I’m still making ANYTHING after tsunami upon tsunami of embarrassment. I can’t say I enjoy it when it hits, but I have to tip my hat to embarrassment. Like anger, frustration, or any other unpleasant emotion, nothing gets me from where I am to where I would prefer to be faster.
So, I'll be continuing to embarrass myself.
What does this mean for you? Well, the next time you feel like you’re right at the edge of your own level of embarrassment, stop a second. Look around. I might just be waving at you. And you know what? I bet Bono will be too.
If you’re interested, here’s the article on Bono by Devon Ivie in Vulture.