I love Ueland’s message, blunt and unconventional. Just listen to this!
“But the great artists like Michelangelo and Blake and Tolstoi—like Christ whom Blake called an artist because he had one of the most creative imaginations that every was on earth—do not want security, egoistic or materialistic. Why, it never occurs to them….So they dare to be idle, i.e., not to be pressed and duty driven all the time. They dare to love people even when they are very bad, and they dare not to try and dominate others to show them what they must do for their own good. For great and creative men know what is best for every man is his own freedom so that his imagination can grow in it’s own way, even if that way, to you or to me, or to policemen or churchgoers, seems very bad indeed.”
That’s enough to ponder for the rest of the summer, or year, or a lifetime. Of course we’re not all great artists, but that’s not the point. We all have a creativity, imagination, spirit, whatever you want to call it, to nurture and express, even if only to ourselves.
What resonates with me is the permission Ueland’s gives me, all of us, to be idle, to be free from the duties that we feel the rest of the world is pressing on us. In that idleness, experienced in solitude, we are free, free to create, but also free to let go of the judgments we have about other people. When I dare take the counter-cultural stance and go to the cottage or travel alone, I satisfy my own good. It may appear selfish, but I think of it as being honest, which is essential for inner peace, and that I dare to assert is the ultimate goal of all of us..
Where do the memories of my artist dad fit into all of this? As my sister said at the gallery opening of his work, Dad was disciplined. It’s a given that to be good at anything we have to practice. But Dad also took time to be idle. Again I’m reminded of all those times when I would see him sitting in a chair in the woods. Sometimes he had a sketchbook with him, but my recollection is that he just sat. I wish I could ask him what he was thinking, what his process was. But maybe the memory of him ‘perched’ there as I, absorbed in my play, ran by, is enough. Dad and I, both in our imaginations, working things out. Dad, the grownup, thinking. Me, the active ten-year old, active, my thoughts and actions working simultaneously. Now, sixty years later, I’m more in my head although I get many of my best thoughts while walking. Regardless, whether sitting or walking, I am idle and alone.