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On tragedy, triumph, and the beating heart
What would you do if you were in a near fatal crash?
What would you do if you were in a near fatal crash?
One of my idols was driving back to his hotel when he was cut off by another car, ran into traffic, and got into a terrible collision that nearly cost him his life.
He had to have his mouth wired shut to have major reconstructive surgery on his jaw. And after nearly losing his life, his face, and his voice, what did he do?
He recorded his debut song.
Kanye West’s song had a simple message, but a powerful one. The message was that you could take your lowest points and make them into art. According to Kanye, himself, he turned “the worst thing that could’ve possibly happen to me” and turned into the best thing. His song kick started a career that spanned over 15 years and has made him into one of the biggest celebrities in the world.
At the time, no other hip hop artist would record something so authentic and in such a vulnerable way. It was the era of traditional masculinity, of gangster rap, and Kanye’s music signaled something different. His song was the beginning of a revolution in the hip hop world changing what rap music sounded like. At the same time, his song spoke to me in ways hip hop songs hadn’t before. He completely changed how I perceive my low points.
Sometimes, I struggle with mild anxiety and depression and if you have experienced that, you know how debilitating it can be. I always thought that one day I would magically learn to defeat the obstacles and the depression and the anxiety and all the issues in my life. At that point, I could finally do what I always wanted to, like learn how to tell great stories.
It took me far too long to realize that life isn’t like that. Life taught me that anxiety, depression, and all your struggles don’t disappear in a poof one fine day.
But, Kanye taught me the antidote. He taught me that I can’t wait for a magical day where all my demons are defeated to become a storyteller. Because the demons are part of the story, they are what makes the story interesting, gives it it’s unique flavor.
Now, I just have to find out how I take my pain and create great stories. A movie I watched recently has given me an inkling as to how to do that.
“My favorite book is a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver called: What we talk about when we talk about love. And in the closing lines, Carver says, ‘ I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.’ …And i think that’s what writing is its listening for that beating heart and when we hear it, its our job to decipher it to the best of our abilities.” -Stuck in Love
To find the beating heart you have to be familiar with your own. You have to understand and empathize with yourself. And I think in the end these struggles and obstacles I’ve faced have given me a unique perspective into what it is to be human.
Recently, whenever shit hits the fan, I try to think about how I can turn that experience into a story or incorporate it into an essay.
As an aspiring podcaster, writer, and filmmaker, these experiences are going to give me the filter in which I view the world. I believe what most of us gravitate towards when we read a book, hear an audio essay or watch a film is what Carver calls human noise or what is often called the human condition. We are fascinated by the struggles and tribulations that others have because they mirror our own. Even when great art tackles the large, grand philosophical ideas about life, it is always couched in something human. Art is about solidarity and empathy.
Neil Gaiman has a commencement speech where he talks about this very thing. He talks about the importance of turning your life into good art.
And despite the fact that I’ve listened to Gaiman’s speech multiple times, there are always times that its gonna be hard. There are days you are not gonna feel like doing anything, when your own personal demons can bring you down. But, if you are an artist, create routines and rituals so you make great art despite how you feel. You may not be able to create your best work every time you show up to write, you may not even be able to write more than sentence. But I think of it like this…everyday you show up, you are flipping of all the shit you’ve dealt with. You’ve got to show your pain that you can tire it out through sheer obstinacy.
And then some days, the pain will be too tired to plague you and you will be able to make the art you’ve always wanted. My life is an unwritten story, as is yours. And just like any story there is going to be tragedy and triumph. There are going to be parts of your life that really sucks. Because that’s the human condition.
But if you show up everyday and if you create routines and rituals then you can develop a wonderful gift. Just like Kanye, you can turn “tragedy to triumph/Make..[art] that’s fire, spit [your] soul through the wire.”
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Remix of/Inspired by:
Kanye West, Raymond Carver, Stuck in Love, Neil Gaiman, ZenPencils, Carlos Moya, Aniket Mutatkar, Brittany Levers