As an artist, I really don't care what's true.
Wait, let me re-phrase that. As as artist, I care intensely about what’s true, but I don’t always care about precise reportage and recitation of facts and events.
That’s not quite it, either.
In a former life I worked in the news industry, and at that time I cared passionately about what was true. In fact, coming from a family of journalists —and one marriage and family therapist – – the fine grained nature of truth in a thousand stories, from a thousand perspectives, often provoked intense discussion at home. Declarations of truth rarely depended on simple accumulations of information; a list of informational bits is not an argument.
Alas, this deep value—a pursuit of truth with equal zeal for understanding its implications— has lost currency in the culture. Here in the wireless 21st century we live in culture that’s largely illiterate when it comes to science, all things considered. But we also live in a culture that's largely ignorant of law and governmental due process, of history and language, of how our cities and towns operate, or basic civic mechanisms. Not caring about facts can be a dangerous way to live, and history is replete with cultures that fell into disrepair and even marginalization because they placed undo importance on unfounded assertions, demagoguery, or charismatic personalities.
Facts most certainly remain essential to good thinking, informing me and inspiring me in every way. But facts are not my guiding rudder, at least not exactly. I care about facts, and I care that they are right, precise, and clear. I have little patience for squishy assertions or ill-formed conclusions, especially based on unsubstantiated information. Honest, credible, reliable information is the lifeblood of critical examination, and critical examination is the tick-tock of an artist’s forward momentum. Without a desire to examine the surrounding world—without intense curiosity about how things might look or sound or be told to others—people don’t generally feel powerful urges to create. They do other things instead. Therefore, for creators, news of the world matters.
That’s the moment of inflection.
Journalism still matters intensely to me, and its many expressions and expositions are still hotly discussed in my home. But now, here, in the future of my younger life, I meet the sun and see the stars with the eyes of an artist more than anything else. Artists create their own realities, built of bits of the world around them, accumulated from ideas and events and stimulations that make them think and feel. What emerges from those efforts are refractions. Those refractions, while based on reality, are new. They did not exist before they were invented by the artist, and their emergence into the world is not precisely defined by facts.
There’s it is: artists create their own, new, realities out of existing ones. Others in the culture consume those creations, are shaped by those creations, and reality changes again. It’s like a Mobius strip. Creative people refract the world. The world adjusts, reality changes, andcreative people must respond, making something else.
The more people presume themselves part of the creative process, as participants rather than pure consumers, the more the remaking of reality becomes its own collective act of creation. Unconstrained by a singular pursuit facts, creative people can coax into existence both fine grained textures and grand sweeping gestures of what comes next. Which is not to say that culture suddenly has license to decide the two plus two equals five. Facts may not the end point of creative enterprise, but they are almost always the beginning. After the facts, however, anything’s possible.