Last night I saw The Tallest Man on Earth (not the record holder but the folk singer/songwriter who goes by that name). Upon reflecting and marinading on the performance, it struck me just how incredibly amazing the whole production and consumption of art really is.
I’ve been a fan of The Tallest Man for quite a few years now. The project of Kristian Matsson, a native Swede, is one that relies heavily on intense emotional reflection through his lyrics as well as world-class finger picking. Both are impressive, but the lyrics inspired a realization I had…
An artists craft relies on the unmasking of their deepest longings, hardships, hopes, fears, and other emotion so that their audience can encounter the same realities themselves. An artist honestly reveals emotion through words, paint, stone, or any other artistic channel used to communicate a personal truth so that a recipient can cope with how that truth relates to them. Art takes repressed or poorly constructed feelings and gives language to them.
Art is the gateway to a true encounter with something divine. What I mean by that more explicitly is that it is through the consumption of art that an individual can take an internalized thought or feeling and begin to see that same thought or feeling form into language. A divine encounter is anything that makes one recognize that there is more to reality than the individual perception they have. It is a connection to something universal yet simultaneously personal.
Professional artists then could be considered, and in my opinion rightfully so, the gateway between strict material blandness and transcendent divinity.
Far too often the perception of what is a legitimate or appropriate means of divine encounter is seen as coming through a sacred text or religious authority. Now obviously this is not the only accepted way of “religious experience” to most; it is, however, seated on a type of pedestal. Art is an accepted area to which people in religious sects would see a divine encounter occurring, but as far as the hierarchy of divine experience is concerned, it is at the very least further down the ladder than classically held areas of scripture or church leadership.
Art, however, should undoubtedly be at the forefront, ahead of scripture or any sort of religious authority.
Art communicates with the reality someone holds inside and meets them right where they are at. Art is the rain that falls just as you are thirsty. Art is the love you find right in the midst of heartbreak. And art, perhaps most importantly, is the insistent plea to see the miracles right in front of you. Art is personal, practical, and endlessly available. A divine encounter is first and foremost dependent on an individual experiencing something on a personal level. The ironic thing is, scripture can really only accomplish this when viewed with the same subjectivity as a piece of art.
For example, The Tallest Man played a song last night called Singers which he expressed was about his grandfather. Although the words were not in my mind before the song, the words he sang were unbelievably relatable to my grandfather and I’s relationship. It is through his words that I took an unconscious truth and made it conscious truth, and now I’m sharing that. It’s the spread of hope, despair, and longing that art promotes. Those are the same things that are lacking in our society today.
Even more interesting is the fact that every person is an artist, for art is fueled by the human emotion we all have within us. In that sense, every human being is another human being's gateway to a Divine encounter. So when individuals argue about whose way is right and how others are wrong, they are missing the emotional cry of the human consciousness begging us to become the springboard to allow another person to tap into the divine themselves. Not through right belief necessarily, but through the transfer of emotion. When we create outlets for our emotion, whether it be poetry, prose, or painting, we create an opportunity for another to experience divinity. Each artistic release we set off into the world is a puzzle piece that could complete the unfinished puzzle of another's emotional needs.
Now obviously some have become better at the artistic craft than others. The Tallest Man on Earth could be that potential for hundreds.The issue is that there has been a duality set up that says one is or is not an artist. Yet the sooner we allow ourselves to outwardly express what is inside, the sooner individuals can relate and become connected to us. Because being an artist is not a title but more an awareness to the divine wanting to burst out of you.
Art is the bridge connecting every human's soul. There can be many bridges and many different routes people can take, yet the truth of the matter is all those paths have the opportunity to yield a universal result. And that is the wonderful opportunity for us to see past the individual, and recognize the collective tied to the truth a piece of art can provide.
Here's a song by The Tallest Man on Earth that I believe to be about maintaining hope through trial, and knowing that difficult and slow times can turn beautiful. It's gorgeous. You gotta hear the whole thing.