Popular opinion is oppressive. That is why the best thinking, art, music, writing and self-expression always happens on the margins of society and/or within spaces away from which ‘just anyone’ is allowed to participate.
Some mistake this for elitism. It certainly can be if it’s being done by people who sincerely believe they are inherently better than others. But mostly, I think, it’s a form of artistic and creative self-preservation.
Those who have produced truly great things almost always find enclaves of like-souls with whom they can express themselves freely, and without judgement — engaging throughout their imperfect processes and without the burden of having to perform for the fickle, intolerant or unfulfilled masses who are simply looking for, at best a diversion; at worst, things to criticize in order to relive their own existential discomfort.
I think many people who lack this kind of community, or who are yet to find their enclave have made a decision to simply walk alone. It’s better to be lonely than to be oppressed, creatively or otherwise.
Society almost always views creativity in terms of product. True creatives understand it as process. And process is something that requires time, experimentation, mess and confusion.
Process is as much about the creator as it is about the creation.
Process is about the expansion and evolution of the self as an instrument of creativity. It can’t happen in spaces where we are forced to conform to the lowest common denominators of expression, morality, or identity.
It doesn’t require affirmation or the engines of affirmation that society provides for those who are lost, insecure or unable to resolve their creative impulses. The creative process affirms itself. It is recognizable on a cellular level and undeniable to anyone engaged with it.
In the same way that religious communities want to ‘own’ the spiritual lives of their adherents — placing each individual person under a yoke of dogma, controlling the unique spiritual impulses that are the birthright of every single human being — so does popular culture do with creativity.
But anyone with an authentic spirituality who has walked the path alone can tell you that no one has a goddamn thing to say about their beliefs or experiences in that realm. Same is true for creatives.
To have fully engaged with your creativity means owning a part of yourself that is untouchable by opinion. It is tantamount to personal spiritual realization. NOTHING and NO ONE can take it away from you.
Not that they won’t try. But when faced with the choice between meeting public approval and fully embodying the vivid, technicolor existence that you were born for, it becomes easy to shrug and walk away from other people’s demands for conformity, their litmus tests for belonging, or their controlling criticism.
It’s not always an easy path, and the truth is that you may never be popular. (At least, not in your lifetime.) But you will be truly living.
And honestly, what more do you want out of life?