Valentine’s day encourages us to think of love and I love the freedom that art affords me. I can read a thousand voices and explore color and shape outside the binds of marketing. Love of books, of art, of expression, love of our ability to dissent, malign or praise, celebrate and adapt through expression, all of that is my valentine this year.
February 14th in 1989 Salman Rushdie did not get love from the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomani. Instead he was the subject of a special kind of hate, a fatwa which is, in essence, a kill-on-sight order. Rushdie went into hiding for years. He was a respected and well-known author before the fatwa so many agencies helped to conceal him. I think his ability to keep writing speaks to his fortitude, his vocation, but also to a certain level of safety he may have been afforded.
I think of Frederick Douglass, too, writing when it was illegal for slaves to learn to read and write. He could have been imprisoned, put to death, and in fact fled to Ireland for sanctuary. There had to be room for him to risk it; there had to be a mental freedom that gave him the strength to try.
The word freedom has too many associations; it is bogged down in connotations. Rushdie wasn’t free, nor Douglas, nor the countless women that had to publish under male pseudonyms, the countless artists creating under life-threatening regimes, the closeted kid who can’t tell his parents for fear of exile and persecution, the mother who shouldn’t ‘waste her time painting’ who is accused of neglect, and on. There are graduations to these traps and obstacles.
Creativity is something else. It is a special derivative of freedom, a chemical reaction of mental space, a momentary indomitable invincibility. It is how we make these barriers invisible or better, how we can knock them down, dig under them, get around some way so that expression doesn’t get trapped inside and crush our hearts because death is not the only threat to life. I don’t have a word for it. Yet…we can flee and dodge, crush and crack, ignore, destroy, and leap wildly like klipspringers beyond those obstacles, away from the predators to achieve it. It being whatever we call that opening of creativity.
What I love and want celebrate this week is the function of inclusive art and expression for everyone. (Yes, even those who think I am a liberal loser that will be destroyed by my wanton inclusion of ‘invasive’ cultures). Much love to all the creatives, captive or otherwise; may you get some compassion from agencies that free your work from the confines of your corporeal being.