What a soul is made of
Artists’ work is not frivolous. It is not a luxury. It is not an extra. It is the same thing that the rest of us are ultimately working for. It is the apex of Maslow’s pyramid. It is soulcraft.
We don’t grow food, manufacture goods, and administer medicine to survive. We do it to live.
The artist’s work is to search the dark and jagged cave of human experience and deliver us wonder, deliver us hope, to learn what it means to love. To make us feel less alone in our grief, longing, and loneliness. Artists paint the chaotic swirl of life events with meaning.
Just as there used to be no life in the universe, there was once no meaning. Meaning is new, just like life is new and consciousness is new and the Internet is new. Meaning was created. Artists don’t just find meaning. They take part in its creation.
A soul needs meaning like a tree needs water. It’s what we need to grow. It’s what we’re made of.
Artists are the professional meaning makers, but the rest of us make meaning too. We all participate in its creation – in the unfolding of the cosmic story. Just as a priest or guru, through special devotion, is meant to open the door to God for all of us, artists open the door to meaning for all of us. To the stuff souls are made from. To our own tender insides. To our inner cosmic depths.
What I have said, then, is not exactly right. It is not the job of an artist to make meaning, to find and share wonder, to reflect grief, to craft hope, to know love. It is the job of a human being.
It is your job, and my job too.
I have two great heroes: Elon Musk and Brené Brown. Elon Musk is an engineer pushing technology beyond what most people thought possible. Brené Brown is a social worker decoding the painful and sweet mysteries of what makes and breaks our hearts.
On its face, what Elon Musk and Brené Brown do is completely different. And yet lately I’ve come to realize what they do is exactly the same. It’s creating hope. Hopecraft. Elon Musk and Brené Brown are two of our greatest hopecrafters.
I am young, and the course of my life is unknown. What I feel strongly pulled toward is hopecraft, in diverse forms from self-driving cars to self-compassion.
What I also find enticing is the great swirling mystery of the cosmos. I feel drawn into its depths. When I feel the burden of problem solving, like all I am doing is holding up the base of the pyramid for artists, sometimes I reconnect with the mystery. Usually by accident.
And that’s when I write things like this. I don’t always know why the things I write make sense, I just know that they do. My training in philosophy has taught me to be attuned to my gut sense of truth. It can be years before that gut sense can be articulated as a formal, logical argument. Not always, but usually, the logic checks out.
I reconnect with the mystery, and I articulate my gut sense of truth in loose prose and metaphor. I trust that, under the hood of my words, the logic checks out.
What I see with my mind and heart and gut I want to show with my words. Writing Waveform is my attempt to put fleeting glimpses of mystery into permanent expression, for myself and for the world. It is my attempt to deliver wonder, to deliver hope.
It is an attempt to make meaning around making meaning – to be transparent about creating meaning, not pretending to discover it externally, wholly formed, but to venerate meaning making as a craft. And to understand meaning making – in bewilderment and awe – as an unfolding process set in motion by the strange, bottom-up, upside-down Genesis story that is the universe.