Wednesday, August 17, 2022

My “Special Concern” for Musicians (and All Artists)

For as long as I can remember, I have listened to all kinds of music and musicians (as well as being a musician myself for the past 50 years). Since I have my own multifaceted (mostly amateur) aspirations for creativity and engage in various artistic endeavors (musical, pictorial, and poetic), I know something of the particular intensity of the creative process, and the tremendous focus and energy it calls forth from those who dedicate their lives to this kind of work.

I feel like I “have a heart” for musicians and other artists, because I know that creative people have special challenges and difficulties, and that their lives are hard. And if they become celebrities at a young age, immense pressures bear down upon their artistic creativity and their humanity. They need to be regarded with compassion, and held up to God in prayer. We need to be patient with their foolishness, be attentive to whatever is good in their aspirations and work, hope that they will ‘grow up’ eventually, and grieve for those who tear themselves apart. (Too many times I have had to grieve in this way.)

Artists in general endure much suffering just from the demands of their creative work. In the strange and stressful and turbulent times we live in, they face additional special challenges. Among other things, artists must negotiate the perils (as well as the possibilities) of the explosion of technological media and media’s power to exaggerate the value of superficial fame. Artists whose work makes them famous - by virtue of its merits or by chance or by some combination of these factors - can end up having an exceptionally hard time in this regard. Fame has been destructive in many ways to talented people who are thrust suddenly into wealth and celebrity status without a human context that can guide them, and under intense pressure to produce continual novelties.

The Lord knows intimately their pains, the desires of their hearts, their questions and their (often hidden) cries for help. He knows how much or how little culpability they bear for their sins, even those behaviors that appear outlandish and preposterous to their followers and critics.

In no way am I implying that the chaotic, self-indulgent, vain, narcissistic, and violent actions that poison the atmosphere of the celebrity world are justifiable, excusable, or even tolerable. Objective moral evils can only be harmful for human beings and human flourishing, and God knows who bears what measure of responsibility for the distractedness and the “practical nihilism” that weighs so heavily on the dominant mentality of our society. I myself am a sinner who has been foolish in my youth and stubborn in my old age, and it may be pride and timidity as much as anything else that keep me looking "respectable" on my own small stage in life. 

If all we had was our own fragile human freedom, what could we do? But let us never forget that we are all human. We all have the same human hearts, underlying our differences of cultures and circumstances and various gifts, modes of expression, and sufferings. We all have the same human hearts, made for a mysterious happiness, wounded and broken, desperately in need of God’s love, forgiveness, healing, and transformation.

Through Jesus Christ, the grace and mercy of the God who loves us finds ways to draw us, surprise us, provoke us, and even "outwit" us. The Good Shepherd seeks out all His sheep, He knows our roads, and He travels them all the way to the end. 

The mystery of human freedom remains. We must walk freely with the Lord and struggle and fight against the evils we face and our temptation to settle for less, to be self-satisfied and self-centered. 

I pray especially for artists to be faithful to their calling, and me to mine and all of us. My hope is that the infinite mercy of God will win our hearts in the end.