Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Art of My Parents, Sally and Jerry.

At heart, I'm an Artist. My parents on the other hand, at heart- are not. Sal and Jer are conventional in a way they aspired to: a stable home life, dinner at five of a meat and potato, and a kindly relationship to their world. Today is their fifty first anniversary and I couldn't be more pleased or more proud that I get to call them Mom and Dad. Sal and Jer accomplished convention valiantly, and I along with my two brothers (twins not quite a year younger than me) and our families (six grand kids) thrive from their convention so valiantly achieved.

So at heart, what is an Artist? I would offer this explanation by way of my own experience and the descriptions of others who share in this experience: an Artist is one who can no longer be bound by convention. Not because convention itself is the problem- it's not; we need convention. It provides the ease required for society to form and create itself; with such ease in place, we become free to spend our energies on real tasks instead of having to also spend it on making up game rules and the like. Convention is utterly important. But it's never permanent: the Life that beckoned an earlier growth, having become satisfied, moves ahead and once again beckons us to grow again and create new convention. Artists are the ones who hear the Call before the rest of their Society; and as such they are the pioneers who willingly leave the finery of Bostons and Philadelphias- conventions so elegant- for the next frontier. And then after living in Life's next frontier, and developing a felt sense of it, Artists return to their place of conventional beginnings with maps. And hope. A hope that the maps will be both cogent and inspiring, as both are needed for people to be willing to risk the Boston they know for the one they'll have to make. To be sure, there are plenty who go by the name artist, but since all they really do is make a carnival of laughing at convention, while remaining within a convention's city limits, these people could more aptly be named jackals- not Artists.

Cogency and Inspiration is a serious responsibility.

This then is the rub: Sal and Jer gave birth to an Artist- one who's called to move past the very thing they not only aspired to- they spent their very selves in valiantly accomplishing: How do real champions of convention- at its best- understand a son, who through nobody's fault or planning, hears that beckoning call from our new frontier, and try as he might, can't ignore it?

The cliche' says that an artist's parents were establishment dolts who bought into capitalist dreams and strove for material riches in a way, that any one with a "right mind" (anti establishment) would rebel against such a travesty of authentic human being. But Sal and Jer didn't participate in the cliche'. They took convention seriously and embodied it in the way Life means it to be lived. They didn't give me anything to rebel against. Instead, they gave me something to aspire to; a life who's convention seeks decency in any way it can.

I say this now, in honor of my parents and their anniversary because over the last few years, I have been able to again take up my Artist responsibilities of leaving the likes of Boston for our new frontier and map making, because my own two sons are happily involved with the women they will make their lives with. They are living into convention in a style that began with their grandparents; a style that I could only duplicate, a style to which Ben and Jake are now aspiring. My Dad, who began from a life of smoldering violence, joined with my Mom and created a home where I got to flourish ( in their home, anyone would); because of Sal and Jer's commitment to convention, our family history has a new trajectory that is now embodied in their grand kids. How far can such a trajectory of complete decency reach?

Your reach, Mom and Dad, is the very basis from which I'm willing to trust Life's beckoning into its frontier and leave the finery of Boston and Philadelphia- and your Convention. Not because I find some fault in the Convention you accomplished so well, but because Life has a way of growing and then beckoning us to grow along with it. And when its time to grow, it falls to the Artists to make the Frontier and ways into it both cogent and inspiring. I hope for you to see that my work doesn't contradict you, it comes from you.

Happy Anniversary- I love you more than you could know.


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