Skip to main content

The Real Architects of Change

I saw a bumper sticker the other day: “Siri for president.” I laughed out loud. Who wouldn’t want a truly smart person to lead us who could provide direction, information, and assistance on nearly anything, in a pleasant voice, even-tempered, polite, professional and unbiased?

I suppose it would, after all, take a skillfully programmed, artificial intelligence to do that. Which is sad, when you think about it. Why can’t humans be as intelligent and as nice?

Singer-songwriter, Julie Gold, who gave us the Bette Midler song, “From a Distance,” was interviewed a few years ago and was asked what she might have been if she had not been a musician. She said,

“I've never had any other loving heartfelt desire. From the minute I heard music I knew why I was born. To make music to play, to listen to music; and for some reason I have been lucky enough to live this beautiful life as a musician. I don't know. I don't know what else I would have done, because I love music too much. For anyone who has that calling and is trying also to make a living at it, it is really hard. Getting gigs and getting listened to. Getting respect, it's hard. It’s what bonds us all because we have been so rejected and dejected. Yet we know in our hearts why we are here.”

“We know in our hearts why we are here.” What a beautiful statement of self-confidence and yet humility. Since a child, she knew she was born to be a musician.

I truly wish we had a musician, or a novelist, or a poet, or a painter or sculptor, to be our president. They live out of their hearts. They understand human emotions. Most of them have had to work hard, grueling years, often through long periods when their gifts were never noticed, rejected and dejected, as Julie Gold said, with no financial rewards. They know how to survive. Many of them, even those who have highly succeeded, have no real interest in fame or big money. They produce art because they have lived it, and they love it, and it touches us where most of us live. Broken relationships. Lost love. The brutality and waste of war. The lethalness of hate. The wreckage of greed. Death. Loss. Grief. The thrill of intimacy. The glory of color. The magnificence of music. Songs that bring us to tears or lift us into heights of euphoria. Novels that leave us collapsed in frightening self-awareness and longing or help us enter a world of tenderness and utter compassion. Paintings that astonish, overcome us, and move us to reverence. Poems that reveal our deepest feelings and send us exhausted from their truth.

Could sculptors Frederic Remington (old west figures) or Gutzon Borglum (Mt. Rushmore) have led our country well? Could we have been in good stead under the presidency of Walt Whitman, Georgia O’Keefe or Ansel Adams? Would Etta James or Aretha Franklin or Toni Morrison or Mary Oliver been capable to run our nation properly? Yes. In every instance, yes.

Picasso once said, “We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.” 

Give us leaders with that kind of passion and devotion to ideas and yearnings greater than themselves and we would have some kind of government.

Writer William Burroughs—iconoclastic, brutally honest, visionary—once said that artists are the real architects of change.

How right he was. They lend their brilliance to us in gifts of words, photographs, songs, paintings, sculptures, ideas, insights, vistas and images, lyrics and sounds that inspire us to acts of courage, to deeds of transformation, to insights into ourselves and our world that challenge us to love better and to live openly and alive.

I may very well write in Mark Twain this year. What a president he would have made.


Copyright © 2016 Timothy Moody

Popular posts from this blog

The Light in the Faces of Our Incredible Human Family

National Geographic Journalist Paul Salopek is walking across the world on foot to trace the pathways of the first humans who wandered out of Africa in the Stone Age to claim the earth as theirs. His journey will cover 21,000 miles and is estimated to take 10 years. He is four years into his massive expedition and already he has discovered that humanity is mostly kind and generous, welcoming and caring, hard-working and disciplined.
I watched a brief piece about Salopek’s journey on the PBS News Hour this week. I have included a link below.
What is extraordinary about his adventure is his realization that in spite of all the wars and turmoil across the globe, he has learned that “The world is an incredibly hospitable place.” In following the ancient trade route called “The Silk Road,” Salopek has gotten to know a variety of people young and old. And though he has so far encountered a few dangerous situations where he had his water supply stolen, was once ambushed by raiders, and was sho…

Our National Lack of Self-esteem

There is a brokenness in our society, a pervasive moral collapse, a reckless disregard for community, neighborliness, courtesy, and compassion.
Our government leads by this example. Both parties are incompetent to guide us into a more responsible living, into a serviceable structure of humanity. Our leaders are dominated by greedy oligarchs who don’t just want more, they want everything, even if it costs our society its dignity, its soul, even its future.
What is on display here daily is a wretched lack of self-esteem. The loss now influences all of us. We’re all affected in ways that keep us shamed by our actions.
When we feel powerless, aimless, without any higher goals than the accumulation of things and the momentary thrill, we then mute our intelligence. We live by raw emotions—anger, appetite, urges. We don’t think, we don’t consider, we merely react. We push. We disregard. We threaten. We act out. And we fail.
Self-esteem is a learned process. It builds on genuine successes that ar…

Is the Soul Solid, like Iron?

Mary Oliver has a beautiful little poem in which she asks:

“Is the soul solid, like iron?
or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?”

It is both.

The soul, we are told by philosophers, theologians, and mystics, is our essence, the permanence of our true self. It is that part of us that lives beyond death. Or so we are taught by religion. Where exactly the soul exists beyond that, has of course, been long debated.

There are times in life when something deep within us is, as Mary Oliver says, solid as iron and we operate out of some sense of aliveness, confidence, and inner strength. It may be fleeting, but there when needed; or it may carry us through long periods of endurance when we build a sturdy self, confident and capable of our abilities and talents.

This is the work of the soul. This is a part of our spiritual development. This is what enables us to believe there are forces in life, loving and generous and mystical, that nurture and compel us tow…