Monday, May 7, 2012

Junot Diaz | The Importance of Being an Artist, and Fucking Taking the Fucking Cake | Portland State University, April 30, 2012

When Junot Diaz spoke at Portland State University last week, he was greeted by a small group from the Dominican Republic and by a smaller pack of Garden Staters.  After a quick chat with each, he said, “Portland, you take the fucking cake."

Walking home from this reading, I found myself wishing there were some way I could exchange my entire education for hanging out with Mr. Diaz 24/7 until I get "it".  Of course, if it weren't for all of my education, I probably wouldn’t want "it".  And, of course, I am fully aware that I can’t get "it" by attaching myself to someone else and absorbing their "it".

Still, I'm sure I'd benefit as a human being if I could just listen to Mr. Diaz talk about...  whatever...  whenever.  More specifically though, I want to hang around this guy because I just might learn how to be an artist.  Not in a formal training, learning craft, or apprentice-y sort of a way, but simply, what it is to be an artist.

Even just being a fly on the wall might give me a shot at getting it into my head, once and for all, that being an artist is important.  That it's a valid thing to do, even if you don't get paid or become relevant to anything, or anyone, ever.  That artists are essential to a functional society, even (especially?) beyond the folks of the creative class that flock to hip cities to work for media companies, and keep trendy eateries afloat with non-stop client meetings.  Those folks are crucial to the economics of our society, but artists do something equally (more?) valuable.

Those things in parenthesis, that's what I actually believe, but it feels like I'm betraying my past if I come right out and say it.  The creative class was a good place to be...  for a time.  And, for a time, I actually even convinced myself that there wasn't a difference.  That being creative, is being creative, is being creative.  But there is a difference.  Of course there's a difference.

Not that I was doing anything especially creative.  I was just supporting people being creative - Managing.  Facilitating.  Identifying.  Connecting.  Coordinating.  So, as far as being an artist goes, I've spent years as a copy of a copy of a copy.  Of a copy.

And, in the end, it could be that I should have fought harder to continue being a copy of a copy of a copy.  Of a copy.  It is possible that a copy is the best I'll ever be.  But I think I'd rather try to make my way as an artist and fail, than die/retire wondering "What if?"

I just hate that I'll have to sacrifice my teeth.  From where I am, looking out to where I might be going, I just don't see a good dental plan.

If you get a chance to see Junot Diaz, take it.  To get a taste of what it might be like, go here (Junot Diaz at Boston College on February 15, 2012).  Watch it.  You'll be better for it.

Then, read his books.  You'll be better for it.

He really does take the fucking cake.