History rarely celebrates The Couch Potato. Crowds never gather to cheer the timid, the sedentary, the boring. Sing it, Virgil: "Audaces Fortuna iuvat."
But you know what? A day or two after a natural calamity, everyone's wishing for a little prosaic ordinariness.
The mid-Atlantic states got clobbered by a colossal storm on summer night in 2014, knocking out power, felling massive trees, ripping power lines from their poles like spider webs ripped from backyard porch railings. It came on a Friday and by Sunday morning more than 1 million people were still without power. Substantial water restrictions were imposed due to a suddenly darkened water pumping station in the region. And may I add parenthetically, that this all sent a particular pang of fear into my heart, because triple digit temperatures dangerously threatened to desiccate my thriving tomato crop. But perhaps I shouldn't jest about such widespread woe.
Widening the metaphorical lens, I can't help but be aware of the tragic fires this year in Colorado. Homes and lives have suffered terribly, and major portions of vital national wilderness have turned to ash.
Pulling back even further, it's inevitable that perditions elsewhere in the global village should immediately come into focus. Debt crisis, Syrian upheaval, African strife, environmental decay, abrasion of the American social fabric: trapped in an art gallery a hungry person hardly notices the paintings all around.
Of the many lessons a life in the arts teaches, the two most essential are fortitude and perseverance. No kidding: "the show must go on" means so much more than simply a rallying call for nervous high school students at the spring play. But the real world often requires us to drop philosophy for practicality. Philosophy informs how we will act; that's why it's essential to develop deep philosophical skills early on. The actions we make in life are choices shaped by a life of philosophical training--good choices if we've trained ourselves well, not so good choices if we've missed the forest for the lumber mill. Surrounded locally by a calamity that merely hints microcosmically at the substantially larger challenges elsewhere around the world, I'm aware of the discontinuity between philosophy and practicality.
In the past few days, we've been working hard to develop a number of new, substantial projects. New treatment pages and reference art are starting to add up, starting to gather exciting critical mass. We're aiming high, looking far, and running the engines at high revs. Nobody cheers for the complacent, and these days we've been pretty busy.
Then the storm hit.
As I turn in my chair to look out the window, it's a lovely morning, now two days after a gusty wind and rain have stopped. The air is almost still, the sunlight golden yellow, the few singing winter birds giving no indication of the rough night they weathered just recently. But the storm also forced momentum to come to a crashing halt on those new projects, as practical realities and the emotions and energy necessary to propel them got siphoned elsewhere.
That perseverance thing, that thing about the show going on? It's not about dumb, donkey-headed stubbornness. It's about taking the day in stride, come what may, no matter what winds or rain may lash fragile flesh. It's about a sense of humor, grim sometimes, but a sense of humor fundamentally. It's also about a determination to be undaunted, even as the unexpected knocks you for a loop. Because the unexpected is always gonna knock you for a loop.
Of course, you can't think these things when you're wondering where your family is going to sleep now that your home is a pile of rubble, or your nation in tatters from political unrest. But later, later, later… long after the smoke has cleared and democratic elections held, and people you love are together again telling stories, the artists of the world will have led the way in making sense of events that really had little to do with ordinary reason and rhyme. Acts of creation matter most when the world runs down. The perseverance inherent in those who have something to say puts a frame around the otherwise Brownian chaos of unpredictability. By framing the world, we make sense of the world. By making sense of the world, we find our fortune.
In case you're wondering, by the way, we're back to being full speed ahead getting those new projects off the ground. Stay tuned. Go farther.
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