Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Artist Died

While working today, where I called an art gallery, I was told that they were no longer in business because the artist they represented had died.  I was saddened to hear this.  I've been walking in lockstep with death for far too long now.  But this time something odd happened.  While typing in my notes from the call, I typed the following:
"The Artist"  and stopped.  I couldn't type the last part.  Those 4 letters..."died" would not come.  I sat there for an eternity looking at the computer motionless.  I was frozen in action but not in thought.  My mind raced at a million miles an hour as I sat still.
I began to think about what would happen to MY work when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil.
I have very few completed work.  Most of my Magnum Opusi, Opuses, Opus' (however the hell you pluralize opus) are incomplete.  I have told no one how my many stories will end.  Not out of fear of them spoiling the ending, rather because I want everyone to get the same reaction and Wow factor reading it only after I edit that story for a final time.
I sat there and looked at those two words, "The Artist" and wondered why I had capitalised the word Artist.   My brows crinkled and I got some fleeting thought that I did this out of honor.  But this wasn't true.  I was typing my own obituary.  I capitalised that word because to me...the word Artist is a proper noun.
After what felt like 2-3 minutes, I finally typed the last four letters.   Died.
That's when I became self conscious.  I began to think my coworkers were looking at me.  I wondered what they would say if they knew my story.  These folks I now work with have no clue about the last year of my life and the living Hell it has been. I won't tell them.  I'm not even certain I'll be around them long enough for that to matter...and besides.  I'm fucking sick of talking about it and getting the same reaction every time.   To them, I was just sitting there zoning out.  To me, however, I was in a state of panic.
I felt like a failure for not having finished my stories.  I felt like I was losing this race I'm on with the reaper too fast.  And make no mistake, kid.  We're ALL on that race and it's a rigged contest.  We'll never win.  The best we can hope for is to accomplish something that lives on after we die.  As an Artist, I have that power, but what have I left behind to date aside from a handful of poorly cared for paintings and a filing cabinet full of stories that you will all love if I ever finish them.  You want to know what it was like during 260BC? Got that one.  You want to live life in the trenches of WWI France?  Got that.  You want an existential analogy on the merits of good and evil set in Purgatory?  I got that one too.  But they are all in folders.  Incomplete sketches, the lot of them.
If the reaper were to claim me tonight in my sleep, what would happen to them?  Would I be able to trust my family to treat them with the respect they demand?  Would they be placed in hands that could do better than mine?  or would they simply be placed in a large crate and buried in teh earth alongside me?
As I looked at the words "The Artist died...." having just grated my own soul thinking about what would happen to my work when I kick off, I remembered the reason I typed those words.  I thought about the Artist I had called about. He died in his 70's.  He had some pretty good art.  He lived a good life and died with many, many friends.  In the greater scheme of things I would say he won at life. 
I felt guilty for bemoaning my far off demise (fingers crossed) when this man had in fact beaten me to it.  But then the arrogant bastard in me stood up and said "Your work is more important than his, Roger.  Your work will bring feeling to people in a way he never could with just those paintings."  My arrogant side is pretty adamant about things like this.  I agreed in this case.  There may be someone 10 years from now who reads my Suicide Story and it changes his life.  Perhaps someone will meet Eugene, My hitman with a past and not make the same mistakes he made.  I am so much more these days than an Artist.  That's not arrogance talking, it's fact.  As a Writer (yes, I capitalise THAT one as well) I have an aspect he didn't have.  That doesn't make his loss lesser.  It doesn't make my contribution greater.  I just think I have more work to get done.  And hopefully, someone will get out of that work something that will help them.  Wishful thinking, I know.  Odds are I'll die as anonymous as I lived.  With only you generous few there cheering me on as I ride the lightning.  But I like to think I am meant for greater things.  As Browning said, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp...or else what is a Heaven for?"