As a writer and an artist, I’ve always felt in some small way, seperated from my fellow man. It’s nothing I can put my finger on; but something about the way I’m hardwired makes me see the world in a slightly different way to those people around me. Maybe you feel the same way…
In 1954, Abraham Maslow – a behavioural scientist and contemporary of Fredrick Herzberg – first published his much debated treatise, ‘Motivation and Personality,’ which introduced the world to his theory on how (and why) people satisfy personal needs in the context of their work. Maslow postulated that there is - inherent in the human condition - a general and observational pattern of needs recognition and satisfaction, that people are genetically predisposed to follow.He also theorized that a person would be unable to actively pursue a higher need (in the hierarchy of needs) until his or her current need is partially or completely satisfied.In other words, the prepotency of the underlying ‘need’ would prevent an individual from perusing what might perhaps be deemed to be an ‘active want’.
Maslow’s Pyramid’, it may be fair to say, does in fact catalogue the ‘need sequence’ of the vast majority of human beings on this planet. It may inherently be seen to encompass (if I may generalise) the Accountants, the Farmers, the Middle-Managers, the Lawyers, the Debt Collectors and the Used Car Salesmen who walk among us. But does it, I wonder, catalogue the ‘need sequence’ fundamental to the life of the Artist? Or, is perhaps the Artist in deed and thought, a creature of paradox, whose hierarchical needs are somehow inverted and out of sequence with his fellow Man?
As Maslow himself ironically pointed out, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at ultimate peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature”.
How then do we explain why the Artist is not bound by the same ‘need sequence’ as his neighbour? When even the most fundamental of human needs are oft put aside in his quest for artistic expression and his pursuit of ‘The Dream’? In layman’s terms: ‘Why does the Artist allow himself to be tortured by circumstance, when the requirements for his own societal integration – and supposed salvation - are self-evident’?
Grow up. Buckle down. Get a job. Get married. Raise a family. Grow old. Die.
Take the example of the Artist who ‘acts’. Barely scraping by he works a ‘day job’ he hates. Be it as a waiter, or telemarketer, or cabbie, he begrudgingly punches the time clock day-in, day-out, while vainly questing for that ‘big break’ that will catapult him beyond the mediocrity of his existence, and brand his name in neon across the boulevards and multi-plexes of the world.
This man is very good at what he does. He has studied his craft full time for three years and can immerse himself in the psychological ramifications of the Stanislavskian Method, or the pre-disposed Actions and Objectives of Laban. And – if the truth be know - he has a resume that others would be proud of…but, for 9 months of the year, he is a waiter. Or telemarketer. Or cabbie.
And as the years pass, his life suffers because of this.
Girlfriends come and girlfriends go. Each new face excited by the ‘glamour of showbiz’ and the ‘stories of gigs long since past’. Each old face wearying of the man whose future is uncertain. Whose present is precarious. And whose past is glorified.
And so they leave him. They always leave him. Maslow’s third Need being unfulfilled, they move on. Uncomfortable in their discovery that the Artist has little room in his soul for anything other than ‘The Dream’ and his burning desire ‘To Be’.
His friends support him, as friends are want to do. They cheer and applaud him when he pops up in the latest Pizza Hut ad; and they dutifully turn up for the sporadic co-op production he appears in.
But, it is his friends who pay for the skinny latte at the nearby Starbucks when they leave the theatre. And it is his friends that get into their new car with their loving partners and drive back to a home they own, and a pay-cheque they can bank on.
His support crew gone, the Artist catches the last train out of the city, on route to his cramped little room in a share-house on the wrong side of town, and the knowledge that, come the end of the week when the applause has long since died down, he is back waiting tables. Or telemarketing. Or driving a cab.
And it is the Artist that wakes up alone. Save for ‘The Dream’, and the hope that tomorrow could be better, and that everything could change with a single phone call from his agent. A phone call he fears in his heart of hearts, will never come.
Why then does this man not take action to rectify what he knows are the inadequacies of his life? Why do his needs for Self-Actualisation and Self-Esteem take precedent over the more fundamental and basic human needs of Belonging, Safety and even – as history has shown with so many artists – Physiological fulfilment?
I would postulate that the Artist simply has NO CHOICE in this matter. He creates therefore he is. This is simplistic, but profound. For to take away his artistic expression and his pursuit of ‘The Dream’, would be to deprive him of everything that fundamentally defines him. And doing so would cause the building blocks of his own psyche to crumble; and in the event of such an attack, the man he was, would cease to be.
Indeed, to deprive the Artist of his art, is to end his life. As surely as if a sword were plunged through his heart. For the Artist can never join the ranks of the walking dead. Can never cram himself into the 8 a.m. Reichsbahn that encompasses the corpses like a mass grave. Can never chain himself to a desk, in a cubical, in an office, like a lab-rat in a maze.
The Artist is a creature who may look like his neighbour and sound like his neighbour, but who will never be, his neighbour. And no amount of explanation can make his neighbour understand this. Because the paradox of the Artist is a question long since tabled. And yet unanswered.
Be he Actor, Musician, Painter, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer, Sculptor, Dancer or any of the myriad of artistic expressions that God has blessed Man with…an Artist MUST create.
That, perhaps, is answer enough.
Brian M Logan
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