“My eyes would say: thank you, I see you.”
“And their eyes would say: nobody ever sees me, thank you.”
The deepest human need is one of connection ~ feeling like we belong, not only in our environment but also with other people. The same atoms (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, etc.) that form the earth can also be found in us. So you see, even at the most basic level, we really are all connected.
In her excellent TED video (below), musician Amanda Palmer beautifully articulates that powerful human need for connection while at the same time validating the role of the artist as fostering that deep connection with their audience.
What I loved about this video, too, was how she talked about feeling shameful when she was offering her art and personal connection on a sidewalk in exchange for money. Someone driving past (& not part of the exchange) yelled, “Get a job!” That, Palmer said, made her feel ashamed of what she was offering to people and it made her fear that what she was doing wasn’t job-like.
I say all that to say this: I often think that too, that I should go get a “real” job, one that actually pays me a steady salary. I think it more often than I’d like to admit. Because writing fiction, for me at least, pays very little (yet!) if you just look at the financial numbers. And that’s what people like that guy driving past look at, that’s what’s important to people like them. Sadly, that’s what’s important to a lot of people.
What they don’t see is the connection that’s happening between the artist and the receiver of that art, the connection that says “I see you,” the connection that makes us a little bit closer and a little less lonely. As a writer, I show you how I see the world; as a reader you encourage me to keep going. And even if I never meet you or know your name, now we’re connected at least a little bit. We’ve both fostered the humanity between us.
It’s important work that we’re doing, creating art, and learning to trust people with the little parts of ourselves that we infuse into our work. Palmer argues that when we actually see each other, we want to help each other. I believe that’s true.
As human beings, we are already connected. It’s the artist’s job to remind all of us of that, remind us deep down in our souls where it matters most.
Do you believe in the connecting power of art?