Whiplash: When Creativity Clashes with Society
Humans live to work, consume, and enjoy things, but only a select few get to create them. An even smaller group believe they’re reaching their creative potential.
Then are the ones who break into the outside world. Those who become famous and reach the mainstream get the chance at success most of us can only imagine.
Until they reach that untouchable level, those who attempt that climb must face the naysayers and bear the verbal punishment. They’ll hear phrases like “are you sure this is a good idea” or “you could do so much better than this,” among other, more stinging remarks.
Many films, videos, and articles have discussed this, but I’d like to use the scene that I believe summarizes the struggle of artists with the rest of society.
This is the moment that I’m talking about.
The reason why this scene resonates with me so much is that it echoes what we’ve all gone through at some point.
Picture yourself in Andrew’s shoes. He (played by Miles Teller) has been working overtime to become the core drummer of Shaeffer’s prestigious Jazz Ensemble. We’ve watched him sweat and bleed over the drum sets. Yet he persists, working even harder and giving up other pursuits, such as dating, in the process.
Yet watch the rest of his family. They just don’t care. How could they? They’re focused on accomplishments like Model U.N., Teacher of the Years Awards, and feats of athleticism.
Being in a Jazz Orchestra doesn’t even come onto their radar. They just call it “drumming” for lack of a better word.
The only prodding question they ask is if this Jazz work will provide him a job. And even then, they talk about it as an afterthought.
Damien Chazelle does a wonderful job at making us reflect on our own perspective on the Arts. If we hadn’t known about the intricacies of jazz musician culture, would we care as much as Andy’s family? I hope I would, especially after learning what he’s gone through.
There’s a massive disconnect between creators and consumers, mainly on marketability and reliability. How is it possible for someone to write an article, yet be happy with getting so little? Why would someone sacrifice time and money in the pursuit of meaning and artistic endeavors?
Society values certain things over others, mainly due to how much money they can earn for others. Believe me, if teachers made schools more money, they’d have a draft similar to the NFL. Yet, we care more for rational, more knowledge-based careers over artistic, more creative careers. One has guarantees and stability, and the other is as chaotic as the creative process itself.
Working in a creative field demands 110% of your efforts, even if only done on the side. No one goes into writing because they have a cousin in the business or pay the bills. We do it because we’re driven, and society doesn’t get it yet.
People on the outside view artists as selfish, especially after the rise of the “artistic hippy” of the 1970s that birthed the beatniks and the psychedelics. Nowadays, art has become a bedrock of human understanding and emotions, helping us explore our inner workings far better than before.
John Keating famously spoke about poetry in Dead Poets Society, but I believe this quote belongs to all types of creativity:
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering- these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
We may work to live, but those who found a means of exploring human existence and finding purpose truly found a way to live.
It may take a while for the rest of humanity to understand the artistic pursuit. Until then, all we can do, when faced with the outside world, is to focus on what brings us meaning, and work on our ideas.
Stay focused on what really matters, even if the world thinks it won’t lead anywhere. Because, deep down, if you believe it, then it will.