I have often heard the phrase “starving artist” to describe the creative individual who lives his or her dream but who does not reach a place of so-called financial security. He or she has not, as they say, “arrived” as an accomplished member of the community to which he or she attempts to enhance. Whether it be music, writing, acting, painting, spoken word, mixology…you name it and you can find some starving artists. While there are a number of individuals whose artistry touches any one of these areas who have reached the highest heights of “arrival”–be it via the prestige of having a trip down one or more red carpets, multi-platinum recording contracts, a fleet of expensive autos, a bank account with a balance that defies counting–it is the countless numbers of individuals whose names are never mentioned outside their homes and families, schools, places of worship, neighborhoods and hang-outs, whose talents are on par or are superior to the “arrived” within their genre…it is to those unsung that I tip my hat.
So why a starving activist? I guess I like the idea of fighting through any obstacle to stand for something. The starving artist follows the direction which he or she has been given, regardless of pressures to do otherwise.
Activists do the same thing: I think one of the best descriptors of an activist came in a daily devotional I receive; the writer offered this as a distinction between contemplation (thinking about a thing) and action (doing a thing)–
Medieval writers distinguished contemplation and action. Contemplatives devoted their time to prayer and meditation. Activists devoted their time to good works.
I don’t want to take George P. Wood’s comments totally out of context, so be sure to go read the whole thing for your own take on the matter. He makes the point in the paragraph that starts with “Finally” that contemplation and action go together. The problem as I see it is that so often we get stuck at contemplation. It is easy to stay there, to be a thinker and talker with great ideas, but making the move to action, to standing for something, that is a totally different matter.
When we move to action, we risk upsetting the status quo.
When we take a stand for something, we risk losing friends and making enemies.
When we are activists, we often say the things others don’t want to say–we end up being the voice of those who are afraid, feel unworthy or unequipped or have been pushed to the corners and silenced–or work to right wrongs that others ignore.
When we are activists, our hearts are starved and, like a dog with a new bone, we are forced to gnaw and gnash until we reach the marrow–the tender center of a situation–and we dig out truth.
When we are activists, we are starved for others to be starved enough to want to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, teach the unlearned, love the unlovable.
When we are activists, we want all to have a seat at the table.
And that, generally, is the answer to why.
The unspoken question that follows is, for what purpose, a starving activist.
The answer is of course, because it must be.
If no one hungers for truth, if no one steps out from behind the curtain, the world feeds on untruth, or at least partial truth.
If there was no need for starving activists, there would be no need for heroes like Malala Yousafzai, there would be no need for situations like the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square or the 2010 Arab Spring.
If there were no need for starving activists, US families of any background would live where they wanted without issue, because of the content of their character (which, in the case of home ownership, speaks also to the caliber of their creditworthiness…) and with no concern for the color of their skin or the manner of their speech.
Agree with me, or don’t. It is immaterial. So long as, when it comes to your own causes, you too are a starving activist.
Get up and be moved to act.