The importance of love
What is love? Why is love so important? Why does so much art examine love? Big questions with even bigger answers (see Ram Daas perhaps). This essay tries instead to look at why it might be the most important tool in developing a creative practice and lifestyle - that benefits both the artist and their work.
When I was a child I was in the car with my parents and something came to me that I couldn’t understand. I asked my them to clear it up, as all kids do. I can’t remember what they said but I was left feeling no clearer on the subject. The question?
I suddenly wanted to know - why was every song on the radio about love?
Now, adult me (hi) gets it. It’s clear now that music gives us an insight into the innermost parts of us. It's laced with the search for meaning. It sounds out our consciousness aching for, well, stuff. But why does it always come back to that one thing? That one topic? Whether it’s in a classical melody or death metal - it’s love (no matter what you might think about Black Sabbath) Love of others, of things, of times, of places. Whether it’s having it, not having it, wanting it, needing it, hating it, losing it or finding it - it’s in everything.
I heard Kate Bowler talk about her battle with cancer last week. How suddenly when faced with the overwhelming appearance of her end being thrust upon her, she didn’t feel what she thought she would. Instead of rage, fear, shame, disgust and hate, she felt more loved than she had ever felt before. This only confirmed for her a belief she now holds closer than ever, that:
"We are in fact made of love. And to be loved is within every fibre of our being and in every part of our genetic makeup..."
Or maybe just the plain and simple reason why we are here on this little green orb.
But so often it is not apparent in our lives. We feel alone, depressed, angry, frustrated, ignored, hollowed. Why? Is it perhaps because in our search for true meaning we get lost? Our map is pretty fucking hard to read and, hang on, the bastards gave it to us upside down! Because if love is everything then love is where meaning is found. Yet I think, we are taught so often to try and find that love everywhere but where it actually is - in a thousand tiny misdirections and nudges towards fame, fortune and perceived importance. That love is measurable in volume. As if we can boil it down to numbers in a bank account screen, likes on a post, important emails in our inbox. Yet everything we instinctively know of Love is in no way calculable and formulaic.
Have we learned nothing from music? In the immortal words of Prince -
"What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus."
Music perhaps teaches us one thing - that love is found in a million small things. Not in the extraordinary but in the plain and simple. Especially right now when we are all very cosy with every day - no more wild travelling plans or ostentatious nights out.
So we can find it in nothing more than the sun on our face after a fucking long winter. In coffee drunk slowly in crumpled sheets with messy hair, not just in the thunderbolt and lighting re-making we feel with a new partner, or the proposals on the tops of mountains (though those are pretty fucking acute).
It’s also in how we treat ourselves. It’s doing yoga when you feel like crying. It’s taking ourselves for a walk. It’s having a glass of wine on a Tuesday lunchtime. It’s eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are satisfied. It’s in the worried glances of parents who worried from the moment they touched us. The opening of a car door, the smile of a stranger. It’s in the eyes of a friend who sees you for everything you are, including the parts you don’t ever want to see, and loves you anyway. Like a personal cheerleader with bells on (thankyou, Amy).
These things, these moments are sidelined to the margins of our life, pleasant but fleeting insignificant distractions to what we believe is our true purpose - to do. To impress and fool, to hoodwink others with our curated perfections, our perceived productivity and our ability to look good eating cool food. But if we could pick at these margins, peel them away from the edges of our minds and wrap ourselves in their lines, if we could let these little moments envelop us, maybe that would be good for us. And good for our creative practice.
So often, I think the true root of why we create is to be loved. To connect to others in a meaningful way. To have someone say “me too, that thing - I feel it and wow you really made me feel it”. Yet so often this process gets diverted, shoved aside and put in a chokehold by our ego. It becomes a brutal duel. So often my ego is heard screaming at my creativity: “you need to make this now and it has to be BRILLIANT!!!”. This drives the war of creativity. And what is the opposite of love if not war?
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about war. About how war has so often driven creatives into despair, destruction and even death. That our wish to be GENIUS NOW is the ego’s hoodwinking of our relationship with the mystics of creativity. That those mystics come to us gently whispering loving words, only to be pinned down and held at gunpoint.
So is it possible to instead try and return it’s flaky yet wonderous appearances with a language it knows better, a language that creativity shares with the unexplained mysticism of human consciousness - love?
That if we approached with love, we might just finish, we might allow ourselves to complete something to the best of our ability at that time. That we could raise our head from our work and instead of seeing the battlefield lain with destruction and wounded self-doubts, we might instead see something altogether more agreeable. That we can allow ourselves to have it done and find the piece lacking than let the idea:
"Die upon the cross of perfectionism!”
Your dialogue may be clunky, your riff might be off, your talent may not be in step with your taste - but if we encourage it gently, with coaxing warm words, it might just get closer. That when our ego starts to howl with pernicious intent we can take it by the arm, march it to one side and thank it for its generous protection, but that we will take it from here. As it looks at us with confused eyes, we continue by politely informing it no one will die if this character is ever so slightly two dimensional. That “if I could do better I would, but this is all I have” and maybe, just maybe, if we take this process with a large dose of love, we might find joy and peace and meaning.
Because if we don’t do we can’t get any better. And if we can’t love then I think it’s very hard to do.
Written by Olivia Foan