“Who am I? Why am I here?” Two hundred plus dancers from around the country - and beyond - sat captive. It was the last night of an event that exceeded our expectations. Somehow our tribe had grown from a handful of hacks to so many others that shared our values and ideas of community.
After months of planning and hard work three massive days of sharing and bonding had finally ended, and it was time to celebrate one last time together before scattering to the four winds.
Part of me asked those questions as much for myself as for the audience. It reminded me of that Talking Heads song that goes “you may ask yourself.. well.. how did I get here?”
Who doesn’t want to be on Oprah or win an award like the Oscars?
But, with the deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams still fresh in our minds I’m reminded of how often artists and creative entrepreneurs chase after fame and fortune - only to come up short in both heart and spirit, sometimes with tragic results.
Today the image of hard-drinking writers has been replaced by musicians and celebrities pumped up on drugs. But the idea is still the same - many still believe that being an artist means that you have to struggle with some kind of addiction.
A friend recently shared his blog post on Facebook and talked about recognizing his own unhealthy obsession with fame. Realizing this in himself is a big deal.
I remember driving to yet another tango event and gripping the wheel of my car as I finally broke down. What was I doing?
Night after night I had been going from one dance to another. Sure, most guys start dancing to up their social life - to find some willing partners for dating and romance. But what was I looking for?
A friend of mine used to have this questionnaire - much like the kind you find in any issue of Cosmo magazine. You’d score yourself for things like “you divide your friends between those who dance tango and those who don’t.” I pretty much aced that like some high school geometry pop quiz.
It’s funny how the most profound changes always happen so gradually you barely notice them. Sure, things started innocently enough. One dance class a week turned into two.. which became dancing 3-4 times before the weekend.
Next thing you know it’s a seven days a week, listening to scratch old songs to fill the other 24 hours when you’re not on the dance floor. Still, my friends and I would joke - at least it’s a “healthy addiction.”
Julia Cameron based The Artist's Way on the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous after her own bouts with addiction led her to realized this connection between addiction and creativity. She contends that we can't learn creativity. Because our education system trained it out of us, we must recover it.
When they run a medical test doctors inject a radioactive iodine tracer. If your body has enough natural iodine, the substances just passes through. However, if you lack iodine in your system, your body absorbs this toxic mimic.
No real food around? We grab fast, junk food. Yet, instead of satisfying our hunger, our body craves more and more because it’s not getting what it needs - real nutritional substance. Here's an article on how artificial sweeteners may actually hurt dieters in their effort to lose weight.
A friend shared an article that points out how, contrary to popular belief, drug addicts really crave real, meaningful connections.
Creativity is about connecting the dots in a meaningful way. We may crave recognition or reward but I’d argue what really nourishes our soul is creating work that matters to those we serve.
Whether it’s a blog post, a song, a painting or video, we need to know that somehow someone’s life is better for it.
So, that’s the paradox - on one hand we need to know that our work matters; on the other chasing after recognition is a road to nowhere.
I didn’t plan to be a co-founder of a non-profit for tango dancers. But the need was there for someone to help organize.
I didn’t plan on running weekly events that still continue to this day. But each week about 40 to 70 dancers congregate.
I didn’t plan on putting together a national reunion of dancers. But this group needed to connect with others who share their values.
Least of all I didn’t do it for fame or fortune.
Photo - Unsplash
“Fame is the excrement of creativity, it's the shit that comes out the back end, it's a by-product of it. People think it's the excrement that you should be eating. It's not. It's the creativity and the audience and being there in the moment.” - Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden
Yet there’s still a choice. That’s what separates the hero’s journey from being just a narrative. You must choose to accept your role to go on this journey
That friend is choosing to travel and get away from LA. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what we need to get new perspective. In Switch this is actually pointed out as one of the ways that folks can tame our irrational Elephant side. I hope he finds some clarity - sometimes distance does offer perspective.
What does your creative soul crave?