“So you want to be an artist”, my father said, “Or at least an entertainer”. “What’s the difference” I replied, and he said,” An entertainer helps people forget their circumstances, but an artist wants to remind them of the truth: of where they are. ” “That must be a good thing”, I said, “Telling them where they are, but with a dash of hope”. “It might be a good thing”, he replied ” But do people really want to know? Knowing too much is a burden few men can carry”.
I played at nonchalance but my performance was unconvincing. And when I tried to be profound, I kept forgetting my lines, so I was left a man who nodded at strangers in the park or dreamt of hands joined in union across the dinner table.
I realised, over a period of time, that to be an artist is often to be driven out of society by your own anxiety: to seek for answers where no one else has looked, or even worse, where everyone has looked and you find out, somewhere after youth, that you’ve been wasting your time and would have been happier working in a bakery. The lines you wrote when young come back to haunt you.
” Was he the footballer with the photograph of fame. The writer with a frozen hand. The average tragedy of second rate…Who dared to hope and stayed to pay the cost……Who gambled all open a dream and lost ?”
Is there anything worse than wandering off into the wilderness in search of truth, and finding out the truth is wilderness. Finding a purpose became part of the daily grind, one step ahead of just wishing to survive: a harsh journey marked by the development of good manners and the quest for a paying occupation. The one constant was uncertainty, surviving on the edge of shelter, becoming an unexplained presence at the railway station.
So here I was at last, hunched up in a coat given by some charity, and huddled with some others round a small fire, sipping tea supplied by a group of nuns. “What did you want to be when you were young?” the small man asked, he was surprisingly civilised, “Rich” I said, and we laughed. I didn’t like to admit to the art thing anymore