The artists are getting us through this.
That’s how it always is.
During times of trauma and struggling, we turn to the arts for comfort. Think about it. Songs expressed our feelings after 9/11 and we all sang along. Think Alan Jackson’s contemplative country hit, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning and Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising.
We sing and recite poetry at funerals.
When we struggle, we can’t often find our own words, so we get together and we let the artists say it for us.
It is true in the communal sense, but it is also true in the individual sense. There is a reason Netflix stock has soared to all-time highs in the midst of a global pandemic. People have been searching for stories to provide distraction, hope, and entertainment. The same is true with other forms of media. People, on average, have read more books. Celebrities streamed themselves reading so people could listen in. Individually, we have found art to soothe us.
We don’t simply retreat into media that we can consume, however. We also create a lot more. Maybe you found yourself making more crafts, picking at your guitar more often, or just doodling on paper while on a Zoom call. So many people were moved to sew masks. I don’t think this was just out of a need for more masks, I believe that in a traumatic time they felt moved to create. There’s something to this felt need, mental health experts say.
“The rewarding experience of creating, sharing, and using our time well all stimulate the reward centers in the brain to release ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters (dopamine) and our endogenous opioids (endorphins),” neuropsycologist Katie Carey Levisay says.
Whether it is music, film, drawing, or singing, we have all turned to the arts to get us through. And they have.
There are scientific reasons for this, as the quote from Carey Levisay above illustrates. There are religious reasons, too. In the Christian tradition, as in many other traditions, God is referred to with artistic language. Chiefly, God is the creator.
No wonder we’ve taken more walks, noticed more stars, and maybe even danced in the middle of a rain storm. I personally have found myself more aware of individual birds and trees. We all have craved being outside. Those controversial news headlines about crowded beaches and people flocking to State Parks? There’s a reason for that — the artists (or, if you prefer, The Artist) is helping us through this.
Some may feel guilty about watching another Netflix series, or “wasting time” painting or playing their piano, but I’m certain these times centered around art (both the work of others and our own) are like salve on the wounds that seasons like this inflict.
We need to immerse ourselves in beauty if we’re going to retain any sense of hope during a pandemic. We need captivating stories. We need to let our feelings pour forth from a pen in poetry or under the soles of our feet on a hiking trail.
We need the arts.
The artists are going to get us through this.
They always have.
When an EF-3 tornado struck Chattanooga, Tennessee in April, it completely destroyed a church building. En route to her dad’s house, Tracy Lynn Coats noticed that while the structure had collapsed to the ground, a piano stood resolutely on the stage, relatively unharmed.
Not sure it would even make a sound after such a catastrophic storm, Coats felt moved to try. She sat and played, and then returned a couple days later to play it again. Asked why she was pulled to do such a thing, she responded:
“I felt like that’s how I could do my part to be an encouragement during this time,” she said.
While her way up over all the fallen concrete and rebar was treacherous, she simply couldn’t resist, and people gathered around the site to sing along with the hymns she played.
“It was probably a silly thing to do, but I was just sort of determined to get up there,” she said, referring to the unsafe passage to the piano bench.
“I just felt like there was more music in it… to see that piano, I thought, was a beautiful thing in the middle of all of the rubble.”
She was right. The arts are a beautiful thing, even in the midst of the rubble of tornadoes, pandemics, and death.
The artists are going to get us through this. Beauty in the midst of rubble.
That’s how it always is.