My response to Pooja Ru’s excellent post on the role of the artist:

Pooja, I wanted to respond personally to your post about artists and their role in society, because it touched me deeply. I was struck by the intimacy of your observations, and I don’t want my comments to become some ‘facebook thing’ where people take sides.

I’ve been performing in public for more than 40 years, and my accumulated experience has inevitably led me to one central question:

“What right do I have to ask people to watch?”

Once I’ve dispensed with the ego and the money and all of the outside measures (that you have so eloquently defined in your post), the core work that remains is defining the deeper nature of that bargain.

In your opening sentence, you say that artists have been “charged to remind this world that Beauty still lives and that Love is the reason we’re here”.  Although I certainly would never argue this as a motivation, I would ask you to consider a small modification to your proposition. I think every artist; author, musician, actor, dancer, whatever – makes a simpler bargain with their audience, and it is this:

“Give me your attention for some period of time, and I will enchant you”.

It may seem a trivial modification, but I believe it has deep implications.

I enter the world through music. When people walk down the street, I hear musical phrases that match their stride and posture. I hear music in the noise around me, in people’s voices, in architecture, in… everything. But I’ve become aware that my devotion to Beauty doesn’t grant me a personal pipeline to truth. Living with my attention focused on beauty may grant me the occasional audience to something true, but no more so than anyone else I encounter in life.

I have been blessed to witness that when people enter a state of enchantment, they are more able to reach their *own* experience of truth and beauty.  Artists are essentially magicians and sorcerers. It is our job to help create that enchanted state – and so give the world an opportunity *to remind itself* that love is the reason we’re still here. It is a tiny modification of perspective that has profoundly changed the nature of my performances.

I realize my comments only really address the first sentence of your post – but in reality, that was the meat of it, and you seem well on your way to working out the issues in the remaining 98% of the text.

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