Thursday, January 7, 2010

Of Trees and Caves

"When the Bough Bends," oil on canvas, by Susan Applegate, used with permission.

Maybe the artist lives his or her life seated out on a limb. They are at risk. Not safe necessarily, it can get dicey. But that's part of it. The risk is worth the perspective. Or it isn't and you move closer to the trunk, so the bow doesn't break and baby won't need therapy.

Maybe the artist turns Plato's cave on its ass. Calls bullshit on the shadows and walks into the sunlight. Where does he or she buy shades for that kind of trip?

Maybe the artist stands to the side. Outside. At the edge. Whether it's in a tree or a cave. It's not a privileged perspective, just different. The distance. A key to sanity is being able to traverse it. Bridge it. And to realize that, though you're paying dues, a different perspective doesn't put you in an exclusive club. You're still accountable.

A jazz writer wondered why up-and-comers aren't smitten by Charlie Parker the way they used to do. He blames sound and technology. He's probably right (though I still dig your licks, Bird).

Maybe though, history teaches lessons like people do. Neither tolerate egos greater than or equal to talent. Maybe the moral of the Bird is don't be a dick or people will leave you on your branch or roll a boulder in front of the cave and there you'll sit.

Maybe perspective isn't enough on its own. Maybe you still need a kinship. A connection with others and all. A sense of play. Love, but that's another rant.

Maybe the key to branch-sitting or sun-staring is having a way to deal with the wind blowing a gale or the light full on in the face. Being able to move freely about the branch, allowing it to bend but not break. Or finding a shady spot to scope the sun. I don't know. But sunscreen and a hat are always a good call.

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