• Bandifesto

The art we need to create, create, create

Written by Pablo Terraza

Turn around to face the sky. Tell me what you hear when you consider our past. Among the greatest artists to have briefly joined us in facing our tiny sky, the most memorable are not necessarily the ones with the most angelic voices or talented set of hands to be laid on a specific instrument; but rather, we often remember those artists who were willing to meet their fire and allowed themselves to be transformed by their creations. By exploring different versions of themselves, they changed with no promise of financial success, and yet they insisted on pursuing that calling.


David Bowie, Kanye West, Madonna, Miles Davis, Sia, and even a band like U2 fit that mold. Hate them or love them, it is undeniable that in different moments of their career, they were willing to chop down their tree to dream it all up again. There is no better example of this than Los Beatles. In a very short amount of time, a mere eight years, they were able to rearrange the rooms of their minds to give us many versions of joy and vision we had not experienced before.


There is a wealth of inspiration in musical mythology for us to bring that sort of fire into our own mortal lives, remembering that these artists are no more or less simple, dynamic, or fragile than we are. This is not simply the story of a number of individuals who let the normal passage of time change them. Luckily, we don't have to start from scratch in building our own fire, we only need to look within ourselves or our past for the answers of how we can go about sparking creativity to transform ourselves and maybe even the world around us.


Not dependent on our geographical location, or even the time of the day, we are surrounded by stars every moment of our existence. Whether we choose to look for them is up to us. We don’t have to start by painting our own Starry Night or Mona Lisa. There is a house on a hill, there is a book on a shelf, there is a statue waiting to be molded in the courtyards of your mind. They may not be the greatest works of art to be produced (yet) but they are undoubtedly worth exploring.


Everyday we are bombarded by other people’s creations, ideals, and interpretations. With or without our consent. It’s as if at every traffic stop, we encounter signals for us to consume, consume, consume. Is there a predestined assumption that everyone has something to say except for us? Do our operating systems only have an input processor? As we look back at our short existence, it would be sad to consider our stories to be narrowed down to a game of jumping from screen to screen. From our phone to the TV, from the iPad to the microwave, from the walkman to the digital book tablet for the cycle to begin again.


Behind the curtain of every advertisement that we are presented with is the illusion of the things we are told we need in order to project a beautiful and happy version of ourselves. Without these products, our bodies had managed to hum just fine, but at the time we came across these advertisements our perspective shifted from wanting these things to needing them. The world has not stopped itself from spinning through outer space and somehow, you are still standing. The hard truth is that no savior is coming to make us beautiful or happy. Even with good intentions, our parents, friends, and romantic partners will only fail if they try. Like a typical savior that would not announce themselves a savior, it may not come naturally to meditate on what it is that we want to say or do in projecting our versions of the future.

There is a wealth of inspiration in musical mythology for us to bring that sort of fire into our own mortal lives, remembering that these artists are no more or less simple, dynamic, or fragile than we are.

We’ve had all of our lives to breathe in all that life has to offer but it is up to us to creatively exhale it out. I’m not yet talking about burning down the house or going on an eternal strike from life’s responsibilities. I am talking about making an effort not to let ourselves be completely guided to consume everyone else’s fires. One version of being present is to exteriorize our many takes on this life. Maybe the intention can be for us to not limit our experiences to the confines of what is above our neck (what is perceived with our brains, eyes, and ears), but rather we can expand our experiences by using the rest of our bodies, whether through dance or writing or painting. It is not enough for us to interpret flashes of joy and vision that we stumble across. The point, however, is to do something with all that noise in applying it to our lives.


There clearly are not enough traffic signals telling us to create, create, create. So while you’re here, I’ll command you to it by putting a spell on you:


There is an infinite amount of “art” that cannot wait to be created by you. You must take it upon yourself to take the time to create, create, create versions of reality that are already within you. Alternate versions of yourself and the world around you.


We don’t have to limit this creativity strictly to art. Just as there is a rhythm and soul to the things we eat, (some call it a diet), there is similarly a set of things that we think and talk about. We are not as imaginative as we think we are. Somewhere out there probably is a Conversation Bingo to some of our recurring conversation topics that we delight or bore the people in our lives with. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has their own Conversation Bingo. But what can we do to diversify the options of that board?


One pathway is to deepen our relationships with those things that are already on our hearts and minds. There are wonderful stories behind why we are moved by certain songs, books, movies, buildings, meals and even political ideals. There are whole books, manuals, cookbooks waiting to be written about the way you look at the world. These ideas are birthed from the many ideas you’ve inherited from the people you’ve stumbled across in life.


Although I don’t assume that all of our ideas are so unique to be preserved in the Library of Congress or in a human culture lockbox for aliens to consume, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that one day there may be legions of people curious to know what you had to say. If we believe that a person’s existence is valuable while they are alive, why not give your moments the eternal life they deserve?


Assuming the line of human reproduction will not end with you, what’s your plan for staying in touch with your grandchildren’s grandchildren? If I handed you a dusty jacket or an old wrinkled letter in a foreign language, it may not mean anything to you until I tell you that it’s your great, great grandmother‘s personally sewed jacket, or your great, great, great grandfather’s letter that I came across.


Objective eyes may one day grant us the ability to realize that everyone we come across has an urgent story to tell. Whether it's a version of the future they want to see or a version of the past they want to present that we have not seen before.


There is a long and fascinating journey that led to our birth. The glory of our existence comes from a marvelous story of biology and a set of random circumstances that brought us our understanding of the world we inhabit. Adding a cosmic perspective to our existence allows us to realize that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.


We are part of a large wave that reflects the time and place that we were born. This context largely explains our preferences, customs, verbiage, and life narrative. Consider how many people suffered for you to be alive; some died, others killed, many cried and others charmed their way, or even danced their way to you being alive. All these stories and explanations are worth telling but most are lost to the jaws of time because they were deemed unimportant or sad. Some would say these stories were lost because people lacked the imagination to provide a legitimate reason to preserve them.


We all have our own stories to pass on, and in turn, we all are the inheritors of our ancestors’ stories, whether they were told or untold. Similar to breathing, we don’t need to remind ourselves to consume our upbringings and carry with us the lessons from our ancestors. We begin the beginning by consciously or subconsciously inheriting many of our past’s values, lessons, and traumas. If we’re lucky, we also get to inherit their traditions through music, cooking, spirituality, and quirky habits. We should be generous to our ancestors, in assuming their humanity of guessing their way through life.

Objective eyes may one day grant us the ability to realize that everyone we come across has an urgent story to tell. Whether it's a version of the future they want to see or a version of the past they want to present that we have not seen before.

If they lived, which they did, each of them delighted themselves in building a fire around the stories they inherited and created for themselves. Many of their stories will be passed down and others will be hidden forever to die in their memories, perhaps considered too painful to share, or simply carelessly forgotten.

Within our genes or last names lies a story about why we are the way we are but there is also a more open-ended argument to be made that there may not be one “legitimate” version of ourselves. We are mostly reflections of what we put towards our brain’s jaw and visions of the future we have the courage to exteriorize.


Growing up in Centro America, my father would occasionally bring me on his work travels to the interior of the country and showed me some of the poorest parts of rural Guatemala. He didn’t need a map to get to our destination because he knew he, like his predecessors, had traveled on this road many times before. Back when this land was known to them as their land. Our many lands of origin. On one of these trips, he took me to see a traveling circus that like us was passing through these lonely towns. Free from the light and noises of the city that we had grown overly accustomed to.


The simplicity of the circus did not prevent them from providing the expected slapstick humor and animal abuse that comes with every circus. It did prevent them from having a proper tent. But who is to say what the necessary elements of a circus are? Huge rags like the ones God would use to clean their home created a wall to prevent onlookers from taking a peek into the big show. For us, the audience, we either had the choice to witness the show or realize that above us were only skies.


The final act is the only part that has remained in my mind. In the absolute darkness of that tent, a sole spotlight moved through the audience and landed on a standing mirror. The mirror stood tall compared to the clown that approached it in its darkness, and to the sounds of emotional synth music, the clown went about removing his makeup and costume. Once done, he faded away into the audience free from his labor narrative to become a mere mortal that could be confused by other strangers surrounding us.


Only from a judgemental place of ignorance would one put aside the many obstacles preventing the majority of humans from creating, creating, creating. For us; idealists, controversial, and radical agitators, it isn’t enough to aspire to build a more compassionate world where humans have autonomy over their own bodies, make beyond a living wage, with a democratized workplace, have access to education, health care, shelter and clothing from life’s winter. Such bright versions of our reality would not be free of worry, sadness, or even injustice, but without somehow finding a path to articulate it, they may never come close to reality.


Capitalism came into our societies with a promise of freedom and fraternity, but it has been quite crippling in the way we define our lives. Alternatively, we can contemplate divorcing ourselves from these materialist concepts by which we typically define meaning in our lives. Must everything be approached from the vernacular of whether we’ll make money from it, or to go even further, what others think? In attempting to temporarily block those narratives out, we can begin to create a different version of life that comes closer to fulfilling us.


Plenty of sorcerers, some would call them scientists, predict that automation will eventually replace our jobs. Perhaps this creates a great opportunity to redefine the meaning of our lives. It is worth asking ourselves how different our societies would be if proper access to education would be guaranteed and through the imagination of a universal basic income, what world would our children live in if they could pursue education, not as a means to a path towards a feasible career, but a means towards creating a fraternal world.


We cannot come to this starry-eyed version of our world until we have a strong sense of compassion for others. Fraternity and empathy towards others begin with a realization of commonality. In laying out all the facts that make up our existence, we can realize that we ultimately have more things in common with others than things we do not have in common with them. We all come into this world through the same doors of pain. Experienced through the pain of our creator, our mother, and followed by the spank given to us by a wise nurse. We all possess the same wet tongues and cute tiny toes, and within our minds, we start with an identity of a militant minimalist. With nothing to look back on or look forward to except our mother’s milk, each of us initially taking the world with a sense of curiosity and playfulness.


Some years ago when I began to suspect that I would end up marrying my partner, I began to compile the traces of a video that ultimately would be shown at our wedding. The inspiration first came from a 45-second scene of Cameron Crowe’s film: Vanilla Sky, the protagonist jumps off a building only to see his life and many aspects of his life that he consumed and lived flash before his eyes. So I meticulously started by compiling a list of significant historical, cultural, political, personal moments (our first text exchange), places, people (our ex-lovers included), and tons of other easter eggs that brought us to this moment of marriage. I can assure you this video would not be as good if I would have been taking other people’s opinions into account or even worse, if I wanted to make money from it.


Art plays the role of manipulating us into either reminding us of familiar perspectives or teaching a new perspective of how to see the world. In our creations lie renderings of future versions of ourselves or even expressions of people we may never become. Witches are often thought of as heathenistic beings, but rather than label them as divine or diabolical, we can also call them artists, projecting their own version of the future through ritual.


Every project (big or small) should start from a humble place of accepting that there are no new ideas under our sky but just as true, there’s an infinite amount of ideas that have never been expressed through the filter of your voice. We’ve had our whole lives to write our first albums. The members of Arcade Fire had their whole lives to write “Funeral”, same goes for Lauryn Hills’ “Miseducation” debut, or Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” or Weezer’s blue album. Imagine what you’ll produce.

My pitch, of course, is not an absolutist pitch of no longer consuming social media, tv, or books, that would be impossible. But I am asking if it is feasible for us to spend more time creating our versions of the future.

Even if your ideas are just “guesses”, isn’t there a strong argument to be made that we all guess our lives away? Even doctors infer important life or death diagnosis. It’s not as if everything blurted out by a scientist, president, pastor or pope is based on pure data and testing. We are all mostly repeating the same facts, theories, and figures that have been handed down to us.


Some people have found refuge from this pandemic in movies about this very topic of expanding our notion of creatively adding meaning to our lives. Just as you can begin exploring different forms of expression through sport or knitting to find your own voice, one may also consider:

  • Recreating classic photos or drawings you find online. Whether it's by phone camera, pencil or stencils

  • Documenting and devising different versions of your favorite childhood meal

  • Breaking expectations and expanding the same thoughtful aspects of romanticism usually reserved for romantic partners to your friends, neighbors or family

  • Going back to your memory box and displaying your memories in art form around your house rather than buying something from Target or an insanely expensive art dealer with no emotional value

  • Paying tribute to the places where you became yourself by creating an emotional map of those places

  • Calling your parents or any other older relative in your family and asking them to describe a specific moment or year of their life (whether it’s 1973 or 1987). Easily record that conversation with your phone and don’t listen to it for another five years, when you’re ready to travel in time

  • Writing an essay that connects your life stories to some of your guiding principle filters through which you see the world

If we can temporarily readjust our vantage point from P.O.V and instead aim that camera towards ourselves, we can begin to answer this question of what we want to truly say and do. No one starts a project with every thought aligned. One of life’s greatest pleasures is not so much completing a desired project but the true climax reached in the matchstick moment in your mind that lights the fire, the beginning of the alignment of your many thoughts to form a comprehensible vision of what you want to express. Uncertainty, humility, and curiosity can be our guiding lights in determining the solidification of your projections.

It’s not impossible to argue that we’ve already listened to, read, and watched all that we’re meant to watch. My pitch, of course, is not an absolutist pitch of no longer consuming social media, tv, or books, that would be impossible. But I am asking if it is feasible for us to spend more time creating our versions of the future. Not necessarily to make grand history (if that’s not our will) but at the very least use our talents and consumptions to create a positive projection in our lives and those around us. An idealist, controversial, and revolutionary poet of our past put it best when they said: “Let the world change you and you can change the world.”


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Pablo Terraza is an immigrant from Guatemala living in the Midwest who hopes to hold on to his accent till the day he dies. He will be happy to make you a mixtape and will likely guess two to three songs that you will love. He has a habit of tying every experience to a piece of music. He is well aware that this may all just be a simulation.


© 2018 by Bandifesto.

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