Let me tell you what having nothing means to me.
To artists, ideas are currency. Inspiration, quite literally, equals dollars. Honest art is bankable. Ideas are fuel for an artist’s idle mind. Artists run on ideas the same way nine-to-fivers run on food and watered-down coffee. Without ideas, artists don’t get out of bed. Without ideas, they meander about like forgeries of someone they want to be. Without ideas, artists crumble. I am not talking about ‘my-mother-thinks-it-is-great-and-that-people-would-really-enjoy-it’ ideas. Nor I am talking about some ‘great-idea-that-some-old-high-school-buddy-ran-by-me-at-some-random-party-last-weekend’ idea. I am talking about good, honest ideas. Art without honesty is just craft. Honest ideas are worth sharing. Spreading. Ideas that nurture. Ideas that mean something. Ideas that are the food, the very sustenance of the future. And these ideas, when you get them, hit hard. They feel right. You know it right away. They must be developed. These are the ideas I am talking about.
Without honest ideas, artists have nothing.
To artists, good honest ideas are a lot like love. They hurt. They provide. They enlighten. They must be. Lovers are jealous of those around them that know true love. Artists are jealous of their peers who have found that one true, virgin idea — no matter what they say. Like love, ideas are connected to the artist’s life. They are connected to their soul. And, like any lover, when the idea is not there the soul is broken. The soul is empty. The soul is a shadow. Love is this thing, this intangible thing, and you cannot calculate it and you cannot actually describe it. An idea is the same: immeasurable and infinite and inexplicable. You can talk about it, sure, and you can run it by people. But they will never, ever, know its true meaning or power. They will always and forever fail to grasp the application of it, the necessity of it, the inevitability of it. They will merely listen to it like the news.
Love is only real to the lover just as the idea is only real to the artist.
This is why those who love artists are bound to know pain. Because an artist must learn about ideas, search for ideas, find ideas, realize they are worthless, search for more ideas and hope, one day, to find an honest idea worth holding on to. A lover must learn about love, search for love, find love, realize that that love is false, search for more love and hope, one day, to find a love worth dying for. A lover must fight for love. An artist might fight for ideas. But, at some point in an artist’s life, a lover will appear. And that lover will suffer through their partner’s fight for love as well as their fight for art. And because the artist’s soul is as attached to love as it is to ideas, his soul will be forever torn.
Without love, the lover ceases to be. Without ideas, the artist ceases to be. That is how important ideas are. That is the value of muse. The importance of applicable imagination. The reason for angst. The great, cosmic motivator. Art knows no rules. Love knows no rules. There is only passion. There are no precedents.
To an artist, to have nothing is not to be hungry or to be homeless or to be alone. To an artist, to have nothing is to know nothing, to think nothing. To an artist, true nothingness is a void in the soul and in the mind. Darkness. To an artist, having nothing is about non-existence, to everyone else, having nothing is about a poor existence.
Let’s look at ideas as a business.
Imagine if your business was something as elusive as love, as abstract as love, as incalculable as love. Imagine for a moment that your business was not based on the foundations of an academic curriculum. That the basics of your business did not exist in a textbook. Imagine instead that the recorded history of your business was a compilation of thoughts, rants, speculations, illusions and fantasies that belonged to a mad few. How would you educate yourself? What certainty would you have?
To the artist, the only certainty is the presence of uncertainty. The only permanence is impermanence. The only something is nothing. Faith in nothing. Faith in the darkness. Faith that the true idea is out there and that it will come crashing upon his door, and into his living room, into his mind. Faith that something he cannot describe is still possible. Faith that something he cannot see still exists. Faith that something he cannot deposit at the bank is still, somehow, currency.
The practice of love requires blind, unmitigated faith. The practice of art requires the same.
Love is found in another person. The lover need only meet as many people as possible. But the pristine, undrunk idea floats in the air, blows around in the wind, crawls in the dirt beneath the rock and has no actual physical presence. Love can smack him in the face. Ideas can pass right on by. If he does not grab them, they will float onward in search of another artist who is actually listening. An artist who has not yet lost faith. This is the great torture of the artist’s life.
And when an artist loses that faith, when he forgets that anything is possible, when he looks to facts for answers and when he turns his back on nothingness, when he stops reaching in the seemingly empty air, when he feels that the next true idea does not exist — that is when the artist has nothing. That is when the artist is hungry. That is when he is homeless.