Neil deGrasse Tyson (I think he's someone famous in America?) wrote on twitter: "Creativity that satisfies & affirms your world view is Entertainment. Creativity that challenges & disrupts your world view is Art."
I replied from a place of deep, womanly weariness. Why must we persist with this notion that art has to be adversarial to the artist and audience? Why are we so set on disrupting ourselves and others? Does there ever come a time when we are permitted comfort, certainty, peace?
I believe great art uplifts and encourages both the artist and their audience. I believe that the gifts of joyfulness, satisfaction, affirmation, acknowledgment, reflection, and transcendence allow for a far deeper experience than entertainment. Art like this can help us name ourselves, accept ourselves, and even save lives.
Several months ago, I began writing something which I loved. It was inspired by a sentence fragment someone tweeted - a tiny bit of affirmative art. I empathised with what they wrote and it drew me into my own creativity.
But over time I began to worry that the project was not clever enough. Not challenging enough to the awful state of political, social, and economic affairs all over the world at the moment. It seemed merely entertainment. I knew I could produce something "better" than that, so I set aside my project and tried working on others. Politically motivated stories. Mythically resonant stories. Stories that would really mean something. But none of them worked.
So I looked again at my original project. And a great swell of emotion immediately went through me - as if the potential story was a living thing, and I felt empathy for it, love for it, a sense of homecoming. I felt the racing heart and trembling nerves which come with knowing you are in a satisfying relationship with Life. This is not just entertainment. This is the universe speaking story to a need in me. I write back to continue the conversation.
I'm not creating anything that scares me, challenges my world view, or threatens the certainties of other people. I'm writing something Life wants to say, and its coming through me because I empathise with it, resonate with it - not even on an intellectual level, but in my blood somehow. This is a joyful collaborative experience. The muse/creative force lifts me up and strengthens me so I can do the work. It sends me fabulous music and showers me with images. And it makes me happy so I want to do the work. I'm not being entertained, I'm being cared for. Hopefully if I get it written and sent out into the world, others might feel that the story cares for them in some way also. It won't be especially clever, innovative, or remarkable, but maybe it will reflect some people's experience, give them permission to be more true to themselves, encourage them, or reassure them that they are not alone in the way they see the world. These seem like powerful and valid aims for an artist.
Maybe it will even be entertaining as well.