I’m a real tender heart. Sometimes a glimpse at a disaster like the ones most recently in the news will take me down a rat hole of thinking about all the suffering that’s going on in the world, and I can barely function.
How can I be joyful and nourish my own creative spirit when people are suffering?
How can I go off on retreat to make art when there are children dying in Africa?
How can I go to music camp in the summer when in my own community there are poor kids, abused kids, kids who will never get to explore the creative pursuits that could blossom into passions?
Or what about the people I know in my own life — friends or acquaintances who are depressed or stuck, struggling financially or with their health, or simply unable to pull themselves out of a victim space? How can I write silly songs and dive into a Creative Sandbox ArtSpark-making session knowing they’re miserable?
It’s easy to empathize ourselves into a state of mournful paralysis, but rather than asking “how can I possibly..?” the better question is “how can I not?”
In my years on the planet I have come to the following conclusion:
Creating more suffering in the world by stifling my own joy does not make the world a better place. (Click to tweet this.)
I submit that the fact that other people are suffering is the lamest reason EVER for not following your joy. (Click to tweet this.)
Pursuing happiness at the expense of someone else is unconscionable.
But following your creative joy doesn’t hurt anyone. And even though you may not be saving starving children on the other side of the planet, pursuing happiness in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else is making one tiny part of the world better. (That part being YOU!)
And making one tiny part of the world better creates ripples that affect a much bigger part of the world.
Look at it this way:
When you’re living more fully in your own joy, you bring that energy with you everywhere you go.
When you’re happy, content, with a well-nourished creative spirit, you’re more pleasant to the people around you. You have more energy to give.
When your spirit feels starved, you’re likely to be stingy with your energies. If you feel undernourished it can make you feel downright nasty, and next thing you know that nasty feeling leaks out as rude behavior, passive aggression, snapping at your family or the barista who doesn’t make your latté fast enough, flipping off the driver next to you, or worse…
Of course mean behavior doesn’t all spring from an undernourished creative spirit, but starving yourself out of empathy for a starving friend doesn’t help anything — it just doubles the amount of suffering.
When you’re nourishing your creative spirit, you feel a sense of joy and gratitude for your life, you’re less cranky and a whole lot more likely to be generous with those you come in contact with. You’re simply more pleasant to be around, and that ripples out.
Joy is contagious. So is suffering. It’s a choice. (Click to tweet this.)
My mom always told me, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Choosing to suffer by not nourishing your creative spirit because other people are suffering is compounding one wrong into two. And that’s definitely not right.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s an idea: use your creative expression to make a difference.
- Write a song or a poem or a story with a meaningful message (I like to do this with satire)
- Create a piece of art to lift someone’s spirit or inspire them to change (that’s what inspires my ArtSparks!)
- Sell your creative expression to benefit a charity and reduce someone’s suffering
You’re a Creative — I’m sure you can come up with a whole slew of great ideas. Art can be a powerful tool for good, but not if you sit on your hands, lamenting about how you can’t possibly create because people are suffering.
So what are you waiting for? Go get creating!
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
This post was originally published on November 7, 2012, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.