July 6, 2020

Art and the Creative Ether

• By John Chisholm •

I’ve been spending too much time wondering and worrying about the creative ether. Nobody quite knows of what it’s comprised, how limited anyone’s supply might be or how to acquire more. That’s right. Is there an art station somewhere down the road? I’d like to tank-up on inspiration. You know, ensure that I don’t run out later.

Alas! Everyone knows that it doesn’t work like that. The only thing of which we can be certain, our supply doesn’t last forever, any more than we do.

Dwelling on it is a bit like Alzheimer’s, insofar as worrying about it doesn’t help. Not a bit. The only comfort comes in the assurance that if I make it to eighty, haven’t written a thing in ten years, am locked in a dementia unit somewhere, I’ll never know it. That’s right. I may have Alzheimer’s but at least I won’t have Alzheimer’s.

More to the point, at least for the moment, settling down to write an essay remains the same familiar, old exercise. So what’s all this anxiety about the creative ether?

Thinking about it reminds me of child rearing. I’m not a big fan of changing diapers. No. Oh, I’ve done my share ― maybe more. I hated it with a real and enduring passion ― especially when my children were infants. I remember lamenting, “When, oh when, will I change my last diaper?”

There’s a funny thing about that. I vividly remember loathing diapers but haven’t a clue as to when I changed my last. Something else took its place. Some other worry arose. Life is busy. Another facet began and I never noticed, wrote down the date or tried arranging a national holiday for the exact moment when that whole diaper experience ended for me. Odd, isn’t it?

Stranger still, there appears to be a host of other experiences just like diapers which came, made their marks on my psyche and left with their final departures completely unremarked. Vaccinations (my service physical gave me more shots than I ever dreamed existed, never mind possible), orthodentistry, standardized testing, final exams, diapers and many other activities all resulted in this same memory pattern.

Of course I hope to prolong, rather than end the influence of any artistic ether in my life. I’m just pointing out that worrying about it isn’t only counter-intuitive, it’s useless and completely unproductive. Exactly the way knowing how much you hate dirty diapers doesn’t help. There they are. Your kid’s screaming. Better get at it.

That being the case, why write this?

I want to go down in some sort of record somewhere as having coveted however much of the ether I was given. I want to sing its praises. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not claiming to be Renoir. I just want everyone to experience its freedom, loft and vision.


Because diapers, vaccinations and final exams do not make life worthwhile.

Art does.