“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style” Maya Angelou
Take a look at the first image. What does it say to you? This painting by Chagall, who was a Russian Jew, was made during the Holocaust both as a lament for and a celebration of his people and their culture.
Ok, I have to admit it, like most people I know, I’ve been pretty fed up recently. The thought that the lockdown could well go on into March, even April has really taken the wind from my sails: this time around it feels harder than before, because it has gone on for so long, because we have no clear end in sight, because its winter, because – well, actually because all my plans keep being put on hold if I’m honest. I have many lovely things I want to do, and I can’t. I have an exhibition lined up for September and its looking increasingly unlikely. This is an exhibition I have been planning for two years, and some of the artwork I have been making for over ten years. I have art and wellbeing sessions planned for the community, for those who most need such an opportunity, but I can’t deliver them. I have just been half furloughed from my job in a day centre for adults with a disability, those who desperately need such a service.
I had a real grumble about this to my husband. His response, bearing in mind that his job is hugely stressful at the moment because of lockdown, was: ‘well I’m just glad that no one I know has died or knows someone who has died.’ Talk about putting things into perspective. I wonder how it feels to always be in the right!
Except: except. Of course, it’s all relative, and of course there are many who are struggling with much worse prospects than a cancelled exhibition. Poverty, abuse, mental illness, loneliness. But the exchange got me thinking. If all we live for is to avoid death, then are we really living? In the end is it just about the survival of the fittest? And I remembered a poem, written by Charlotte Delbo, a survivor of Auschwitz. My second image shows a still from a video piece by Studio Azzurro that has inspired me to make an artwork based on this poem.
I beg you
Learn a dance step
Something to justify your existence
Something that gives you the right
To be dressed in your skin in your body hair
Learn to walk and to laugh
Because it would be too senseless
For so many to have died
While you live
Doing nothing with your life.
What has been heartening about the last ten months is the exuberant and inventive ways people have learnt to be creative. Many are learning new skills such as crochet, or painting, baking, growing their own or playing an instrument. Artists and others are finding new ways to share their work and encourage others online. It’s not ideal, some things cannot be emulated such as singing or making music with other people for example, but I have been amazed at the determination of the human spirit to create joy, share love and celebrate life despite everything. Let’s hold onto this courageous insistence that life is about thriving not just surviving and let’s help those around us to do the same, even through the lockdown blues. Prescribed New Year’s viewing in our house was Dr Who; my son is a huge fan. Something that The Doctor often says in one way or another, is how wonderful humanity is, because of our imagination. And I agree.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- What are your lockdown blues?
- What can you determine to do to keep your spirit up?
- How can you encourage those around you?
You will need a hobby or activity of your own choice and another person, either in your garden, in your bubble or online
- Share your creative fun and passion with the other person, teach them a skill, or just tell them what being creative means to you and how it enriches your life
This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission