The Art of the Impossible

vintage photo of a man on scaffolding
 “Builders Fog” by Cheryl Brind, cc.

I talk a lot about the necessity of a horizon: a dream so grandiose it may not come to fruition in your lifetime. It’s your impact—how your identity and intention expand beyond you.

Mine is to see the artist rise as game-changer. Not merely the art itself, or artists as celebrities, but what makes the art and artists magnets: the artistic process. The process of play, of risk, of imagination, of creativity, of collaboration, of timelessness, of ritual, of “what if”, of observation, of curiosity, of vulnerability, of empathy.

When I say rise, I don’t mean get in the spotlight, I mean direct the spotlight. We are the watchdogs of humanity.

Where our government is drowning hope with closing doors, secret knocks, and profiling bouncers, we must rise.

Where our education system is attaching state-standardized blinders on our children and ringing the ever-louder Pavlovian behavior bell, we must rise.

Where business is dulling our senses with fear-based immediate gratifications putting us into debt, we must rise.

Where prisons are stripping a person’s identity and branding them forever less than, we must rise.

Where our community is denying our unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” we must rise.

We have the ability to teach the art of the impossible. Not only do we have the ability, we have the obligation. This current “reality” is not normal solely because it is possible. It cannot be normalized.

Politics’ myopic focus on the art of the possible has hijacked our national purpose.

One always claims
Mistakes were planned
When risk is slight
One takes one's stand
With much sleight of hand
Politics—the art of the possible

(“Art of the Possible” Evita, A. Webber, T. Rice)

Let’s breakdown politics:
- politics: the art or science of government
- government: the act or process of governing
- govern: to exercise sovereign authority over
(Merriam-Webster)

Politics, then, is the art or science of the process of exercising sovereign authority over…our reality.

The more institutions focus more on what’s possible than what’s needed (even if it seems impossible), the risk bar is lowered inch by inch until the thrill of living is gone and those bold enough to keep their eyes on the horizon trip and stumble more times than they can count.

I am not alone with bruises from that low bar. I am not alone with asphalt embedded in my knees. But as time makes my body calloused, I must persevere to keep my heart open and available. This combination helps me stay present to life’s complexities beyond the gravitational pull of “with us or against us.”

painting of a man looking at the stars
Ao Abismo, Con Carinho” by Jeronimo Sanz, cc.

Artists train to become more available, not less. We train to become more receptive, not less. We train to become more raw, not more polished. We train to take risks, not to play it safe. We train to embrace failures as gifts given from above, not to claim false control over the unknown. Our training gives us the language, the history, and the point of view to question that very training. An artistic process intrinsically questions its very purpose, its very form.

For this sole reason alone, we have the ability to teach the art of the impossible. Not only do we have the ability, we have the obligation. This current “reality” is not normal solely because it is possible. It cannot be normalized. Impossibilities blossoming beyond a binary world are a necessity, so let’s…

Suit Up: Getting Into Character
Artists are given a lot of tools and training hours learning how to get into character. From text analysis to warming up your instrument, we consciously create worlds for these fictional beings to call home.

Do you spend that much time and effort on creating your own world?

How much time do you spend:

  • Warming up your instrument before stepping out the door?
  • Empathizing with other “characters” in your play?
  • Observing patterns, themes, and imagery that reveals a larger story?
  • Asking “What If…?” and reading between the lines?
  • Staying honest with interpretation rather than line-readings? (Modeling rather than mimicry)
  • Questioning past interpretations they may have created shallow stories perpetuating stereotypes?
  • Developing relationships with collaborators to take risks, be vulnerable, and devise together?

You have these tools. Use them and then fuel up with joy, otherwise…

The Destination Stays a Dream If Your Tank is on “E”
You can do incredible, dare I say impossible, things when you are in your groove, your flow. It’s a unique combination of your skills, your beliefs, your curiosities, and an element of “where did that come from?!” What happens inside your groove may not be repeatable, but getting in can be. Time to gather your supplies and take care of yourself.

Observe through all your senses what energizes you. (More character analysis on yourself.)

Make those gems accessible. Build up a personal sacred space that gets you in your best state.

Make those gems portable. You never know when you need to get back in your groove. Some days it is a minute-by-minute process. Colors, textures, images, a song, a taste, a smell, what can you have on you at all times? You may have been surrounding yourself with them unconsciously.

For me, tiny toys used to fall out of my pockets and roll across my dashboard long before I started having children. Toys (the tinier the better) remind me that small acts of play are enough to get me out of my head and hopeful. With the expansion of my family, toys also remind me of my devotion to the next generation. Music is also a necessity, so I have an ever-evolving playlists in my pocket. Curating the list is as powerful as playing it. It is a conscious prayer to be me, build up the momentum I need, and help me.

…maintain the truth
I knew naturally as a child
I won't forfeit my creativity
To a world that's all laid out for me
I will look at everything around me
And I will vow to bear in mind
That all of this was just someone's idea
It could just as well be mine

(“Alla This” Ani DiFranco, 2008)

So, let’s honor the gift Tribe just gave us all and:

Make, make, make Let’s make somethin' happen, let
Let’s make somethin' happen, let
’s make somethin' happen
(“The Space Program” A Tribe Called Quest, 2016)

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Thoughts from the curator

Jess Pilmore explores sustainable artistry by breaking down the starving artist myths and giving mindful support for blazing your own, flexible, dependable path.

Sustainable Artistry by Jess Pillmore

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Great article. That's why we need more art taught in schools. Technology can make things better/faster but it takes an artistic view to visualize and create something new.

As soon as I saw the title, even before I cliicked on it, my mind started playing "The Art of the Possible" from Evita! Glad I'm (apparently) not the only one!

To the larger concepts of your (inspiring) essay, I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite pop songs, George Harrison's "What is Life" (which is done in the style of a typical love song but upon further examination is clearly a spiritual song about loving everyone and using one's divine gifts to make the world a better place):

What I knowI can doIf I give my love now to everyone like you [do]

It sounds like you are looking for visionaries. Your mind is a prison. Your imagination is a prison. Only a visionary knows how to go beyond all that.

Yes, visionaries motivate us to jump over the risk-aversion gap. And I hear you on the potential for the mind to be a prison. But I'm also a fan of rebounding off those walls parkour-style to reach new heights.Even Hamlet, when feeling his current situation was a prison also admits "...there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Thanks for joining the conversation, Robert!