For my english final I was supposed to write about what I had learned throughout the course. I kind of fudged myself through the idea that life and art are a constant conversation. I wrote about how all semester we were assigned to read a poem or a short story and then we would come together and conversations poured out into the classroom; conversations that would never have happened without having experienced the poem or story. I wrote about this for a couple of pages and that was that. I turned it in.
But this idea has been floating around in my head for a few days and it resurfaced this morning.
The other day I was talking with a friend and afterward felt inspired to write. The conversation wasn’t particularly deep or anything, I just simply left the interaction wanting to create. I think there’s a reason why urban and metropolitan areas are typically more artsy. I think it’s because people inspire people.
The American Transcendentalists and the British Romantics always ran away from people and civilization out into nature looking for inspiration. I understand that. I’ve been there. It’s inspiring. But, only so much can come from that. After awhile it’s just another poem about how the sky is blue, how the grass is green, and how the clouds are white. There is so much meaningful inspiration to come from human interaction. Why would they run away when community is meant to ripple and inspire?
Why is people watching such a universal hobby? Why do we love watching television, movies, and theatrical productions? People inspire people.
I’m reminded of a poem by Walt Whitman. “I hear America singing” he said. His poem paints a picture with laborers of different trades each singing their song: “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.” And while each of their verses is unique and different, they join together to form a united chorus of humanity.
This past weekend I went to a swing dance workshop. One of the classes was a musicality class. We spent most of the time during this class solo freedancing with emphasis on watching the people around you for inspiration. If you felt inspired then you could grab another person and dance with them. What started as many individuals dancing by themselves became a group of people dancing together with the uniting force of the music that was playing. This is how life works. Sometimes we watch, other times we do. Inspiration comes from both. What begins as individuals living their own lives becomes communities of people loving and supporting one another. This is something I’ve been learning.
I’m learning what it is to do life in community. In the past I’ve ventured out into community occasionally, but only for short stays. This semester I’ve been living in community much more frequently, almost entirely. It’s still so new to me. I’m learning that finding yourself as a member of a community does not mean that you are done getting to know people. In fact, the forming of community is only the beginning of knowing each other.
Inspiration comes from community. It comes from others. And it comes from art. Sometimes I listen to music that makes me want to write music. Sometimes I read something that make me want to write. Living and art all all part of a conversation. No artwork stands on its own. But rather it speaks into the ideas that have come before it and leads to those that will follow. No life stands by itself either. We were meant for community. Our lives are words in a sentence, paragraphs on a page, phrases in a conversation. So listen and speak, and join the conversation. You might just inspire someone.
“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”