Cursing the Darkness vs. Lighting a Candle

I’m still thinking about what Becki Smith had to say in the podcast we did last week, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’ve been cursing the darkness, which is never a particularly useful way to go about changing anything.


As Becki said, our little corner of the world isn’t particularly inspiring. It’s ugly: arid and dusty even in the good years, and these last several years, with the stupefying, record-breaking drought and terrifying fires, have been anything but good. And in addition to the charred land and dying trees, there’s the almost total lack of appreciation of art and culture and the wider world. Creative people who have options have gotten out. So I gritch a lot, imagining how wonderful it would be to live in a place where there were gallery openings and readings and artist meet-ups and funky little shops and galleries and open studios, where you could go see art and meet the people who made it and buy supplies that you could actually see and touch before deciding, rather than having to order online and just hope the colors/texture/size/shape will work. Let me just say that ordering beads online is perhaps the tiniest bit challenging. Oh, sure: if you’re re-ordering something you already have, that’s easy. But trying to find a color to go with something you’re stitching, having to go by the colors online? Not so easy. I’ve got packages of beads that didn’t work for what I wanted them for but that I’ve kept, figuring they’ll be useful for a project “someday.” You know how that goes.


Yes, indeed: I gritch about this a lot. But after listening to Becki, I realize that that’s not the way to go about living a creative life. Sure, it might be easier somewhere else, but then, it might not. In a really artistic community, the distractions might prove more attractive than work. Seeing what other people are doing might be more compelling than doing my own work, and I might find my days spent hanging out at funky little coffee shops, eavesdropping  having wonderful conversations.


What I need to do instead of complaining about the things this area doesn’t have–a supportive arts community, water, greenery–is to figure out what I need to feel good about where I live and then figure out how to get more of that in my home and studio, my office and yard. The drought isn’t going away any time soon, and a vibrant mixed media arts community isn’t likely to spring up overnight. My job is to figure out how to make this space a creative oasis that works for me. What is it that I need to have around me in order to feel centered? What inspires me, and what stifles me?


The originator of the words–“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”–is disputed. Some claim John F. Kennedy; some, Adlai Stevenson. Some say Eleanor Roosevelt said it, and others say it’s an ancient Chinese proverb. Who knows? Whoever said it first, it’s an excellent bit of advice, and it’s something I’m going to think more about–and talk more about here, of course, because I’m sure I’m nowhere near alone in finding myself in a less-than-hospitable environment but determined to make it work, and work gloriously. Stay tuned~~


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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