This month’s inspirational movie was Woman in Gold written by Alexi Kaye Campbell starring Helen Mirren.
The movie chronicles the plight of a wealthy Jewish family living in Austria during the invasion and occupation of Nazi Germany. We see Nazi’s storming into this Jewish family’s home, confiscating anything of real value, which included a painting of the family’s beloved aunt done by Gustav Klimt.
Fast forward 68 years to 1998, most of this Jewish family had perished in the concentration camps. One of the daughters survived. She managed to escape the Nazis invasion and in 1998 was residing in Los Angeles. She searches for and finds a lawyer to help her reclaim what is rightfully hers. The Klimt painting of her aunt which in 1998 was in an Austrian museum.
This story is about a human struggle. A struggle of writing a wrong. It’s a story about more than just a painting. It’s a story about justice. It’s a story about revealing and fighting for the truth.
Grappling with my own L.A. past I googled an old friend from 40 years ago. Someone I knew in high school. What I’d found when googling him was videos of him performing music. He had written songs and now was performing them. The context of his songs were both disturbing and alarming. Alarming to the point of me actually contacting him to see that he was okay.
From his songs I’d surmised that his life was spiralling out of control and that he was really in trouble, if not in a very dark place.
My friend was of course shocked that after 40 years I had contacted him. When I asked about his songs he revealed that his real sufferings were what he thought of as ‘absurd suffering’ and that no one would understand them. He felt he needed to morph his songs into something he thought others would understand. To which I thought, ‘Why are we making art any way?’.
The point I am trying to make is that we all suffer. In addition to death, sex, and taxes, suffering is common to us all.
The fact that we all suffer connects us to one another. Suffering is part of that which makes us human.
To dilute our suffering in our songs or paintings is like lying to the priest during a confessional. Why bother going to confession if you’re going to lie?
Obviously my friend was worried what others might think if he was honest about what he calls ‘absurd suffering’.
As artists, it is of the utmost important to be truth tellers. In spire of what others might think.
To my long ago friend, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to write a song that connects to ‘you’ and reveals the core of your absurd suffering. And when you do this you will experience and understand the true reason you are song writing.
It’s not about what others think, rather it’s about what you think.
And when you get as truthful as possible in your song writing, your real friends and fans will emerge. And THAT is what you want.
In the real world, or work-a-day world that we live in, we need to develop a persona to survive.
In the world of the artist, we need to drop our personas and simply be ourselves. Because our songs and paintings don’t need personas. So don’t give them one.
Ps. As the great gospel singer Mavis Staples said, what comes from the heart reaches the heart.