Imagine a crowd gathered, chanting, one person leading the chant below over a bullhorn.
“What do we want?”
“Small, incremental but meaningful changes over time achieved through consistent hard work and laborious effort!”
“When do we want it?”
“Whenever that sustained effort leads to lasting change!”
It does not fit neatly on a bumper sticker nor will it be chanted at any rally any time soon, but it is one of my current core beliefs. In my art practice, it is expressed through repetition.
It was not always this way.
In the beginning of being “about that (underground) life”, in my adolescence and early adulthood, I embraced chaos, UK or American. I was the least consistent person you knew. I could not be counted on. Each time you handed me a guitar, I would not stop beating on it until every string was broken. It was extremely unwise to invite me to crash at your house if you valued your musical equipment, records, and store of provisions. Life was a continual attempted mosh pit. Ask people who knew me back then.
I have grown to understand that this was a reflection of an internal conflict. If you can imagine a young person having a conversation going like Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes”, but in my head, with myself, all the time, you can begin to picture a person running scared, rejecting all, trying to figure out what to do with this mind, this life and not getting many solid answers outside of “get a job with computers. You will become a millionaire.” It was a different time, the 1990s…
Then my best friend died in a car accident when we both 19. I can’t share any extant online details because there was no online yet.
Everyone in my circle of friends reacted powerfully to his death. Many chose despair, oblivion, more chaos. It was all sort of heading that way anyway… we had our anthem. It was more comfortable to be the cynic that our youthful idealism had lead us to become over time. It was more comfortable to continue to drift. Another option? Shave, bathe, go to a rave… PLUR, you know?
I didn’t do either. If I was going to continue on, then I was going to show up and make it count. Not in grandiose ways. In small, daily ways. Of all the potential ways forward, I chose that one. It seemed the least easy and the least obvious. It has lead to a better, more balanced, more productive life over time than the one I seemed fated to have.
Writing this column each week might seem to some like an impossible feat. I have done so consistently and weekly (with two breaks, sure… one short, one longer) for a year or so. What can you do if you put your mind to it? What could you do if you stopped making excuses? What have you done to fix the problems you have? What are you going to do with the life you have left?
Start today. Continue tomorrow.