For those of you who don't know, I'm a nanny. Well, technically I'm a "manny" (I can hear my mom saying, "Blake, you're a BOY.") for two lovely ten year old twins on the Upper East Side. Needless to say, there is never a shortage of hilarious conversations.
As I was taking the boy home from school on Monday, we saw a commercial in the cab lamenting the recent loss of Prince and the legacy that he left behind. It started a brief conversation (could a ten year old even begin to fathom someone "formerly known as" someone?), and towards the end of it, he made a shocking statement. From the mouth of this ten year old came, "Well, yeah, but didn't he also do a lot of drugs?"
I paused before answering. Was I about to have a conversation about drug use with a child that did not come from my own womb? Perhaps. I decided to take the mature route. I said something to the effect of: "Yeah, he did drugs. And they think ultimately it lead to his death at such a young age." Whew. I had addressed the question, and maybe even popped a responsible life lesson in there.
But then my own mind started to go down a bit of a rabbit hole. I've heard people all the time criticizing artists for doing drugs and finding inspiration through their drug use. I've heard people discrediting artists' entire bodies of work because of their drug use. And I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about this.
Don't get me wrong. I was raised a good old fashioned Midwestern Boy who was taught from a young age that drugs are bad, alcohol is the devil, and pre-marital sex is why Trump is the GOP Candidate. But does that make your music any less influential? What if it took drugs for you to feel rock-bottom feelings that inspired a song that causes someone someday to rethink suicide? I legitimately don't have a stance on this.
Do I encourage drug use? Of course not. Too many variables, too many premature deaths. But have I drank coffee in order to become inspired to write? (Caffeine is a drug, too, ya know.) I would argue that all artists at one point in their lives have used something "not good for them" in order to create beautiful, moving, life changing art. Whether it's drugs, alcohol, an abusive relationship, something. What is the trade off?
I often think about what the true price of being an artist is. In order to really communicate deep, ugly, embarrassing, dangerous feelings in your music/painting/sculpture/script/portrayal, you sort of have to sit in them for a while. And how long before you can effectively communicate it? How long before it starts to eat away at your emotional well-being?
For this reason, I always wonder whether I'd be better off in Arts Administration. Or better off just performing in happy musicals and comedies the rest of my life. OR AVOIDING HUMAN CONTACT. Just some of the thoughts that come through my head.
I leave you with this: Does the fact that a performer used drugs take away from the impact of their work? Should their work ethic be questioned? Should it be encouraged?
Forgiving the Body Which Grows My Wings (Part I)
June 6, 2016
The First Day of the Rest of My Life (attempt #4?)