This has been going on for quite some time now. “This” being the uncertainty of identity. What does it mean to identify oneself as an artist? These days whenever anyone asks me what I do, I never identify myself as an artist. It’s not like I am being secretive or lazy. I’m really glad to be asked. And it’s so rare to be asked. But being an artist is the last thing that enters my mind. It’s so very easy to forget. And if I do remember, by the time the memory appears, the conversation is long since over. And then what?
Because I only think of myself as an artist while I am in the act of making art. Otherwise I am claiming something I am not. I am grateful for the 1% of my life I can say I am an artist. It’s a very quiet 1%. It doesn’t shout at you, so I guess that’s a good thing. Leave the shouting to others. And if they have something that truly needs to be shouted, more power to them. Although I’d prefer to be somewhere far far away from the shouting
So what/who am I if I’m not an artist? That’s the billion dollar question. In my non-artist life, I am 99% styrofoam, 1% water. Or maybe I am 99% water but my soul is 100% styrofoam. When the Buddha said, very considerately, “May all sentient beings be free from suffering. May all sentient beings enjoy happiness.” I wonder if during the Buddha’s lifetime, objects made of styrofoam were seen as sentient. Maybe there was some confusion at that time because sentient beings might be seen meditating upon styrofoam cushions and the boundaries between sentient and styrofoam were not as defined as they are today.
But I can say for sure that as a non-artist, I am not sentient. Not a living breathing organism, but filler material. There’s really not much more to explain. I have no thoughts or feelings or desires, no peaks or valleys, nothing connected to a psyche. These words I write and speak are filler material and I always feel a bit fraudulent when people construe my fillers to be thoughts.
Were I something other than styrofoam, I might feel a strong compulsion to correct the person asking, but or those of us who are devoid of feeling, compulsion is a thing that doesn’t exist. It’s a foreign object. So I guess I just allow those who ask to think what they want and then I attempt to summon something along the lines of the will to accept that. Theres’s really not that much more I can do.
How I became sytrofoam is another story entirely. But unfortunately that would require the sentient powers of memory. So at this point in the conversation, I feel that it is important for me to remind you that I am styrofoam, not memory foam. We are completely unrelated, although we are often confused. Just to clarify, it is not those of us who are styrofoam or memory foam who are confused. Confusion requires a cognitive process foreign to us. Which is why we prefer to leave confusion to the sentient.
As a non-artist, I feel a thud in my chest instead of a heartbeat. And even louder thuds in place of thoughts. The days pass by as one thud after another until one day the thudding stops which can only mean one of two options.
- I am either making art.
- I am dying.
In option 1, I am grateful to be given another chance to be both sentient and alive. Those are days to savor.
In option 2, I get very clingy. Clinging desperately to reclaim all of those wasted moments when I was taking option 1 for granted.
This has gotten far too complicated. I simply wanted to say that I have been in a styrofoam state of non-being for so many days, I’ve lost sight of how I can be anything else. That still doesn’t really clarify things for anyone who still wonders what it is exactly that I do. But it’s really not that big an issue since most of the time most people do not even know I am here. To which I say, “Here I am!”