There’s a James Baldwin quote — indeed, there’s always a James Baldwin quote — about the role of the artist that goes like this: “An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.”
Perhaps one of the reasons there’s always a Baldwin quote is because of what he said in that same interview, with Life Magazine in 1963: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” And read he did, and perhaps because he read, he wrote.
I am trying to read more, again. I am trying to go to the theatre, to go see the exhibition at the museum, to see the film that’s not available anywhere on streaming when it is available for one night at the indie cinema. I am trying to spend unstructured, mostly impromptu time with friends. I am trying, because these are trying times.
I suppose you cannot be a (contemporary) emotional or spiritual historian if you are disconnected from your emotions or your spirituality. I suppose the doom feels more survivable if you can see the glory.
Joy is a practice (is something meditation teachers have been known so say) and doom is a condition, a state.
[It feels like] there is always so much more doom to go around.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want my freedom
Just as you.
— from Freedom by Langston Hughes