Friday, May 30, 2014

Unpaid Labor of Love

Put two brilliant people together and let them talk. That's the premise of the Sundance Channel series, Iconoclasts. After dear Dr. Angelou's death the other day, this episode featuring her and Dave Chappelle has been exploding all over the internet. Here's part one to get you started:

My favorite part is when Chappelle explains why he gave up millions of dollars and fame when he walked away from his popular Comedy Channel series, Chappelle's Show:

"What used to be a real connection between me and the audience had become more superficial...I wasn't walking away from money. I was walking away from the perfect storm of bullshit...Maybe corporate America fucks with human beings like they're products and investments. Maybe a motherfucker brings you into a room and says, 'this fifty million dollars, this pile of money, it's all for you' and when you try to grab it, he throws his dick right on top of it." -- Dave Chappelle, on why he walked away from fame and fortune

And this wisdom from Dr. Angelou:

"That's the wonderful thing about the icon: you continue to grow. And you develop courage, the most important of all virtues...If you have the courage to change your way of thinking, to say, 'Hey everybody, you know what I said last week? I don't believe that anymore. A little child just straightened me out'...This is why it's dangerous to make anybody seem larger than life. Because a young person coming up sees this larger than life figure, this outrageously gigantic personality, and has to say, 'I can never be that. I can never do that.'" -- Maya Angelou, on icons

And finally, advice from the wise old activist:

"If you're not angry, you're either a stone or you're too sick to be angry. You should be angry...We must not be bitter. Let me show you why. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn't do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it." -- Maya Angelou, on repurposing our anger

When you're an artist or an activist, or a parent or a caretaker of any kind, whenever you spend your time on unpaid endeavors in our society, it's hard not to feel less-than. Our nation worships the dollar. If you have the money, you have the power. You can win elections. You can sell books. You can get your own cable TV show. You can use your wealth to make your voice sound louder and more convincing.

It's hard not to feel like an outcast in our Capitalistic society when you work hard on things that don't turn a profit.

I often feel down about the fact that my writing, however great it feels and heals my anxious mind, doesn't pay our bills. The time I spend at home writing is time I spend away from paid employment. I keep writing. And the bills keep coming. It's difficult for me to break away from my unpaid labor of love. I think to myself, I should go back "to work" full time. This blog is a waste of time.

It's times like this when I look to my favorite art iconoclasts to guide me out of this tunnel I've dug myself into. Iconoclasts such as Maya Angelou, Dave Chappelle, and Kurt Vonnegut:

God bless you, Kurt Vonnegut! God bless you, Dave Chappelle! God bless you, Maya Angelou! Thank you for reminding me that creating art is worthwhile.