“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman
This rather cheery quote by Gaiman prompts a challenge of sorts from me. For making something isn’t what makes the world brighter, making something you care about making is what brightens the world. For in the making of something in such a way you honor the world with your contribution.
As Gaiman rightly points out, we’re lovingly placing something that wasn’t there before out in the world for it to embrace. Will it fly or get lost in the noise? It’s not up to us to decide. It’s up to us to create it and set it free. And then to get back to the business of building another beacon.
The best of our work becomes accretive rather than reductive. Look around, there’s plenty of people creating hateful, mean-spirited work that divides and diminishes the world. But not us, no: we offer something more. Something that resonates across the table and across time. For the very best work becomes timeless.
So what makes something timeless? I believe it’s the deep connection between two people that your work represents. Paint placed just so on canvas. Architecture that stirs the heart generations after the last stones were laid. Words that transcend the author or poet and connect one soul to another. This is what brightens the world. This is the shining soul beacon of the artist that keeps hope alive, like a Fresnel lens lights the distance in a turbulent dark sea:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
– Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet
All words across time, offering a path through the darkness in the world. Offering hope and direction and illumination. This is something more. And this is our opportunity too. Great artists are ambassadors to the world, bridge builders to the future, and infinite soul connectors. That’s something to aspire to.