“The myth of the all-powerful individual who succeeds on sheer will alone is so prevalent here that the idea that people you’ve never seen could be responsible for your good fortune would seem ridiculous. But in some places…it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that those long gone people on the other side might be rooting for you to succeed here on this side.”– Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, A Velocity of Being
Maybe this is precisely why we need artists, authors, and poets. The giant grip of our ancestral upholding is a sacred vestige that all makers seem to have a sense of. Every honest artist knows that the myth of the lone genius who is entirely original and wholly unparalleled is more trope than truth. “All creative work builds on what came before,” Austin Kleon says, and “Nothing is completely original”. We are each iterative placeholders amongst what Kleon describes as an unfolding “genealogy of ideas”. Every creator is carried by the weight of every word, brush stroke, and note that formed the catechism of our souls; cradled by a debt of wonder that we can never fully repay and that we are nothing without.
John O’Donohue says that “Artists are the priestesses and priests of culture”. And thus, “No artist stands alone in a clear space”. Instead, “Every artists works from the huge belonging to the tradition”. The artist “inhabits the tradition to such depth that he can feel it beat in his heart”. He knows that he is not a singularity. The village of voices that has raised and nurtured our being never leaves us. They are so intrinsically tied to us, so deeply internalized, that they become the many selves that make us who we are.
We are the product of all the people on the other side of the painting. The other side of the poem. The other side of the page; the progeny of everyone who preceded us. As Matt Haig says, “everything [we] say and do and see is only what [we] say and do and see because of what has gone before…Because of every human who ever lived.”
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