by Igor Menaker
man·i·fes·to : a public statement declaring the aims, motives and views of its issuer. It is derived from the Italian word manifestare (meaning declare, make public), itself derived from the Latin word manifestus (meaning apparent, obvious).
I wrote my manifesto because I wanted to read it.
WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?
I want to inspire you to create art, to become an artist, to live a meaningful life with a sense of purpose. I want you to wake up every morning and love your life despite your pain. This is not a destination, this is a journey. Come along with me.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE AN ARTIST?
An artist is a person who has a mission, a purpose, a voice, a vision, a point of view, a style, a medium of expression and most importantly he has a gift he brings to other people.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF ART?
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does. Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.
Art is a product of creation of something new into being. Art is a revelation.
In a pure form art is an idea. There is always something out there, on the edge of order and chaos, that people are only subconsciously aware of. The artist’s role is to reveal it and make it physically present, to articulate the unconscious as conscious.
Art is meaningless unless it makes a change. Art is a gift, it needs to be given and received. If there is no human connection, there is no art.
But art is not a commodity, it is not for everyone. You need to care. You receive the gift only when it has a personal value for you and you only. The other people may shrug their shoulders and move along. It’s not for them. For you it may be exhilarating like finding a secret door to a whole other world.
Art is about making a connection and making a difference.
Creating art and sharing it with other people gives meaning to your life.
Even more, creating art is a necessity. An artist is like a fruit tree bearing a fruit. You can suppress it but it will cause nothing but suffering and in the end it will destroy the tree.
Art is not an object, it is a process. It is a way of life. Art is a narrative of being alive.
WHAT IS THAT YOU WANT?
Power, money, fame, sex. That is all we want.
All little kids are natural despots. All they know is that they want some ice cream. Now!
They know exactly what they want: to get more pleasure and to avoid all pain. They cannot feel empathy yet. Every desire they have is being served by the slaves, their parents. And they struggle to conceive of anything in life beyond this worldview.
It’s only when a child grows up she begins to ask herself what the pleasure is for, what the pain is for. She realizes that she lives in a society and actions have consequences. She begins to become a person.
Sadly many children don’t grow up. You may be an adult by age, but for some unfortunate reason you are still a child in your emotional development. Your life still revolves around maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.
For you everything is a calculated transaction. Everybody around you is just a means to get more power, money, fame and sex.
Even worse, we are all painfully aware that the whole society, country, all humanity can be enslaved to serve the wants of just one man.
And we ask ourselves after all mystified: where the evil comes from?
It starts with you to make the world a better place: grow up, mature, take responsibility for your life. You are going to miss out on the biggest adventure of your life if your consciousness is still governed by that little kid who wants nothing but some ice cream.
WHAT IS THAT YOU NEED?
A life full of meaning and a sense of purpose.
Here is the uncomfortable truth: you and I and everyone we know will die, and little to nothing that we do will ever matter.
Life is gloriously meaningless.
We are alone in the universe floating on a pale blue dot made out of stardust. And for what we know we might be the only shot the universe has at understanding itself. Simply because we have consciousness. We have the ability to feel, to think, to ask questions and to find answers.
Like the questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose and ultimate fate? Why do we suffer?
We are the universe that tries to make sense of itself. The only true meaning in existence is the ability to form meaning. The only value is the thing that conceives of value itself.
Our collective consciousness, our humanity is the most precious thing that we have. We are divine beings, we matter.
As individual humans, each of us has the most fundamental moral duty we owe our humanity. It is the preservation and growth of consciousness, both in ourselves and in others.
Life itself is all that matters.
Everybody has a purpose within this framework. We must carry a load to justify our existence. The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF AN ARTIST?
An artist is a messenger. The prophecy is in art itself. It is hope.
The purpose of an artist is to give people a gift of hope.
We are all broken souls trying to survive in a cruel world. Hope is the only force that moves us towards the next day. Hope is what we believe to be greater than ourselves. Without it we are nothing.
The job of an artist is not just to give us an obvious hope we expect to receive. Sometimes hope is just a desire to get by. A true artist shows us the way to be.
When we are scared and lost in the darkness of the night the obvious hope is that eventually the light of sunrise will be coming. The way to be is to accept the darkness of the night, love the night because this is the only time when the stars shine the brightest.
You might be a broken soul. But it could be that you are the one who is responsible for torturing and breaking other souls even though unintentionally. You are the one who is making this world cruel because YOU are trying to survive pushing others aside and stepping on their souls.
The hope that brings the most joy to our lives might be the same hope that brings us the greatest danger.
The narrative “we are all broken souls trying to survive in a cruel world” is just an illusion. You are just a weary traveler in a desert who sees a mirage of the oasis and believes it is real.
The fear of the darkness of the night is just your own personal feeling. The night is not out there to scare you. In reality the night is showing you the stars and graciously teaching you about the infinity of the universe.
Don’t hope for a better life. Simply be a better life.
The real purpose of an artist is to see differently, to break barriers, to destroy illusions, to be a visionary, to be a leader, to bring a change to the society, to be a hero who steals the fire from the Gods and gives it as a gift to people. Because life and humanity is the only thing that matters.
WHAT IS THE HERO’S JOURNEY?
“Use the Force, Luke.” No need to say no more. You know the story. Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star moments before it fires on the Rebel base. Luke becomes the ultimate hero.
Star Wars is a modern example of a myth, a universal story common in all human cultures, religions and civilizations. Think Homer’s Odyssey, Epic of Gilgamesh, Hamlet, Moby Dick, The Wizard of Oz, Matrix and the list goes on.
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
This is how Joseph Campbell describes the hero’s journey in his famous book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.
The Hero’s Journey is not an invention. It is an observation. There is the universal path of transformation of a man into the hero. And it happens through very specific stages.
An ordinary man is faced with a challenge he needs to overcome. At first he refuses his call because he is afraid. But then a mentor finds him and prepares him for the journey ahead. The man is ready to cross the threshold into the unknown and the adventure begins. There he goes through trials that test his strength and will. He meets his friends and fights his enemies. Finally he reaches the decisive battle where he must either prevail or die. The only way to win the battle is to realize that his foe is not external, it is his own ego. This is the moment when the ordinary man dies and he is born again as the changed man. After the battle the hero crosses the threshold back to the ordinary world. He tells the story of his ordeal and brings back the “elixir” he won in the battle as a gift to people. He is no longer an ordinary man, he is a hero now.
As beautifully said by Haruki Murakami: “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.”
WHAT IS THE GIFT?
The hero is back from his journey. He has a gift for other people.
It is not a trophy or some wrapped present with a bow on top.
The gift is a man himself. A man who left behind the unconscious Garden of Eden of childhood. A man who is able to accept the terrible responsibility of life with his eyes wide open. A man who is willing to bear the largest burden he can bear.
A man who knows who he is. A man who has a mission, a purpose, a voice, a vision, a point of view, a style, a medium of expression.
Show up and do the work. Nobody cares that you are a bonafide hero with all these victory medals all across your chest. You don’t exist unless you create something of value, something meaningful.
Create work that matters for people who care. Define the problem. Offer the solution. Show us the way to get there.
If you call yourself an artist you actually need to make art. Every day. You need to produce bodies of work, write novels, compose symphonies. As many as you can. Till your last breath.
Art is work. As Chuck Close once said, ”Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Your work is a realization of your full potential, an actualization of your gift.
After you have created all this work now it’s time to give it to people. As a gift. This time maybe even put a bow on top.
Nobody wants your gift. Not your friends or even your mother. Nobody has a slightest interest in your great treasure. It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They are just busy. With their own lives.
It may not be your time. It may not be your place. It may not be your audience. It may be that you just suck.
Actually it is neither. You forgot something important while being busy with your work.
You forgot that you were in love with the process. But on the way of life you fell in love with the result. You forgot that all you wanted was to play the game. But now all you want is the victories, rewards, accolades and standing ovations.
Success has no value. No matter how successful you are in life, when you die, you won’t be declared the winner of life. Life is a journey. Your art is your legacy. And your legacy is the work of art.
IT’S YOUR CALL
Do you feel the call to be an artist? Are you excited for your journey?
It depends. Let me tell you a story.
In 1914 famous British explorer Ernest Shackleton set out on the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. But the expedition never even reached the continent of Antarctica. The ship got crushed by the ice and sank. Shackleton and five of his men sailed in a small lifeboat for 800 miles in a constant freezing storm. They got help, came back and saved the rest of the crew. Everybody survived and nobody complained.
Why? Because they knew what they were into.
According to legend, Shackleton posted an advertisement in a London paper, stating:
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."
The only people who applied for the crew were those who read the ad and thought it was great. Because it was their call.
The artists wanted for a journey ahead. You are being called. The call is divine. Are you the one?