Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough. The world's got problems, big problems, and here I am making up stories about crazy people. I feel like I should be doing something different, something meaningful, something hands-on that's actually going to make the world a better place. I should build houses for impoverished families. I should become a doctor and save lives. I should join a political movement or foster a child or actually do something, anything, rather than just sit here and write. I should be out there saving the world.
Art is a luxury. Art is overrated. Ask the school boards: when budgets are tight, what's the first thing to go? Art. Music. Gym. All these extra, bonus things that it's nice to have, but they're not really necessary. We need doctors, lawyers, CEOs. Not artists. Not writers. Not when art has no practical use.
When I was in ninth grade there was a boy in my class with a learning disorder. I remember one day some of the other kids were making fun of him during lunch. I don't remember what he did to invite the teasing. I don't remember what the other kids said. But I remember the look on his face as he turned away. He was hurt. There were tears in his eyes. But what hit me even harder was his look of confusion. He didn't understand what he'd done to invite the teasing. He didn't understand why they were being cruel. And I remember thinking that there must be nothing worse than that: not understanding, and not being understood.
I could relate to him, both then and now. I've been in his position many times. And that's why I write. It helps me understand, not only myself but the people around me. It helps me recognize how different we all are, how many ways there are to be a citizen of this world, but that we still have so much in common. It's so easy to think your life is the only right one, or that someone else's way of life is a threat to your own. Sometimes it is. Sometimes people are wrong. But I think most people are like me and that boy from ninth grade. We're all just struggling to understand.
I heard a song on the radio the other day about the American political climate, which, unless you've been living in a hole, I'm sure you've heard about. It gets talked about all the time. Some might say there's nothing new to be said. But the song I heard takes what's been said and presents it in a way that hopefully resonates with people and helps them understand. Because that's the purpose of art, and that's how art can change the world. By helping people understand.
Here's the song. It's by Joe Purdy, and it's called Cairo Walls. Take a listen, and I hope you'll understand what I mean.