Demonizing Kanye Is Toxic For Creatives
Right now there is a moment happening on Twitter between Kanye and pretty much everyone else. His tweets are giving everyone – and I mean everyone – some kind of feeling. They’re bringing into question his mental health. Legions of fans and colleagues are speaking out against him, expressing concern or imploring him to redact some of his opinions.
As far as why, this is what I can surmise from whatever this thing is: as a species, we are inclined to put people into categories where they can fit nicely. Left. Right. Sane. Insane. Well. Not well. For many people, it’s painful to equate Kanye as someone who doesn’t hate Trump. (Some of his tweets show a Make America Great Again hat signed by the President and talk about how they share dragon energy and also that he doesn’t 100% support Trump’s policies.) I saw a tweet from someone begging for clarity: what IS Kanye? Democrat? Republican? Someone please clarify! Labels are needed! Let’s keep him in a category!
Many others are posting a picture of him and Kim Kardashian West flanking President Obama as well as an old tweet declaring that President W. Bush doesn’t care about black people and lamenting that they “miss the old days.” My editorialization of that comment: the old days when Kanye was easily and effortlessly put into a category one way or the other.
Binary Thinking: The Enemy Maker & Creativity Defeater
What’s playing out is a masterful example of binary thinking. Binary thinking is something that we’ve all been trained to engage in via our “news” sources and social media. It operates at an unconscious level and parades around as ideology and morals. It manifests as division. It’s the “with us or against us” mentality, eliminating any possibility of in-between or outside of the lines.
It’s the mentality that keeps us happily occupied drawing lines between the infinite iterations of human experience instead of taking a look in the mirror and getting our own affairs in order. It’s what keeps us distracted from our own potential and growth, as we allow our own inner demons to be projected onto exterior sources so we can take comfort in the idea that it’s not us.
I’ll get into the implications of the mental health conversation around Kanye’s Twitter activity later, but first I want to talk about how binary thinking shows up for the artists and creatives that I work with. Very often, when people start working with me, they’re in a huge amount of pain. Usually psychological and spiritual, sometimes physical. The pain, very often, comes from knowing that they have a gift, a purpose, inside of them that every beat of their heart is calling them to do. That gift calls for an expansiveness and the room for chaos; room that either/or binary thought modalities do not provide.
Creation comes from a void. It requires going where there is no order, where there is no song, where there is no painting, where there is no book. Then the conduit (artist) has to actually write and record the song, put the paint on the medium, the pen on the page.
That is an incredibly chaotic experience that is neither binary nor logical. It requires of the artist to hold multiple contradictions as simultaneous truths. The creator must conceive and release ideas with undulating regularity, as they themselves are being reborn simply by stepping into the chaos. The quiet rebirth that is the cornerstone of the artist’s job description is liberating at best and traumatic at worst. Strategic mindset choices become highly valuable in in this process if one is to continue to answer the call of one’s heart.
The void is not a comforting or comfortable place until one develops a healthy relationship with discomfort. The void does not provide the “logic” of right vs. wrong; black vs. white; right vs. left; or up vs. down. Going into the void requires the creator to be able to move in infinite directions and dimensions, not just from left to right or up to down.
This is all a severe departure from the norm – just like any great piece of art that shows us something we didn’t know we needed to see; a song that lifts a burden we’ve been carrying on our shoulders; or a book that shifts the way we think for the rest of our lives.
Creation requires freedom in a world that demands a predictable credo so that the masses can easily file people in the “with us” or “against us” categories. When an artist, Kanye or any other visionary, steps outside of the current structures of pre-approved mass theisms, they are doing what they were born to do. When they have the courage to bring a new prism onto a well-lit stage, well, commence the pyre as its soaked in gas by those who simply can’t cope.
This current Twitter moment is a mass demonization of a well-regarded artist, heralded for his career (this isn’t his first trip to the pyre, by the way). Controversial, yes. But that is what disruptors do. That is the cloak of innovation. That is the obtrusive light that opens the sleepy eye to a different perspective, shaking the beholder out of routine trance.
With even successful, celebrated, networked artists like Ye being alienated in a very public way, what’s someone who’s just getting started on their artistic journey supposed to do if they’re wrestling with tapping into that truthful place, anyway?
Labels, Limitations & Mental Health
When I was a little girl, I saw auras. I quietly regarded them throughout my days until about six years old when I became curious about what they meant. I asked my father, who explained with zero irony that those are auras and that I should never stop seeing them (by the way, his good intentions were delivered in a poorly-executed suggestion to the unconscious mind; in NLP, we always suggest the positive result of what we want to happen). I did see them for a while longer, until one day I assumed (incorrectly) that every grown up would have the same reaction that my father had; one of complete acceptance.
So when I mentioned to my first grade teacher that my friend’s aura was different that day, my comment was greeted with a look of confusion. “What do you mean?” said the (maybe) well-meaning teacher.
Being someone who has had a pretty gnarly case of the feels her whole life, I immediately felt her aversion to my statement and internalized it as something that I’d done wrong. I tried to backtrack with a “nevermind” and the teacher replied that I had said a very strange thing.
Boom. Auras gone. One taming of many that would eventually back me into a corner where I was unwilling to use my voice or be a truthful version of myself. What was once a gift was now “strange” and a source of shame. This is a common thread with creatives. They often have a strong belief at a young age of their ability to do amazing things with their life. They live magically because that’s all they know – until others impose limitations on them. Their visions are often propelled by loving intentions; as Kanye’s tweet above points out, when his daughter acts out she’s simply searching for love. Her intentions are pure no matter what the execution.
Still free of limits and projections, the child can live in a world where the possibilities of greatness are very real and very tangible. My paintings will be in the Getty. I’ll sell out Madison Square Garden. I’ll make the next Godfather. My novel will be inducted into the literary canon of greats. These dreams require huge, untamed and sometimes unprecedented ways of thinking to be manifested into reality.
Our current education system is designed specifically to wring this out of little dreamer hearts one standardization after another. Punitive action is taken toward non-conformity where reward is given to those who sit down, shut up and ask permission to use their voice. They quickly learn that they must use their voice in the presence of their peers and teachers in a specific way to avoid ridicule, whether it’s congruent with the very essence of who they are or not.
For me, the day I stopped seeing auras was also the day that I started to feel shame around everything else that made me different; my shadow side was born and cast away. I was done speaking up and went about hiding who I really am (who, by the way, is someone with a huge vision for her future by way of revolutionizing the path to success for artists all the while living a beautiful, elegant life with her family and serving creative visionaries with my unique blend of talents – I would not have been able to write that down a year and a half ago).
Until a year and a half ago, I masked the shame of having a huge vision for my life with anti-depressants (was still massively depressed with periods of suicidal ideation), anti-anxiety meds (that I would keep in my purse to tame panic attacks that would rob me of eyesight when driving down the highway; super dangerous) and not some, but all of the, wine. I was by all accounts mentally ill.
I wore the label depression like a warm, fuzzy cloak from the ages of fourteen to thirty-four. It was a costume that shielded me from putting myself into the world and having to declare: this is who I am, this is what I believe and I think it’s so valuable that people should pay me for what I’m going to do. Depression and anxiety are a really good reason to stay away from the void of creation because you should keep yourself safe and seek comfort at all costs (comfort not ubiquitous in the void). (I’m not saying all anxious depressives avoid creation and seek comfort, I’m saying I did and it almost killed me.)
I want to say this: I know that there are people suffering from chemical imbalances and I’m not one of those “mental illness is not real” type of people. When I was depressed, that was a very profound reality. I also want to say that medical intervention is super important for other people. Two days after the above picture was taken, my mom showed up in Vegas and drove me to the doctor and low-key hung around until she saw the effects of the newly-prescribed meds take hold. I will say that saved my life. I also want to disclaim that I’m not a doctor and that anything that I’ve written here should not be taken as medical advice.
I don’t know what Kanye’s official mental health status is, and I’m not qualified to speculate. It’s been well-documented that he was hospitalized sometime last year after certain behaviors at a concert. Hospitalizations during tours don’t concern me much. If I were to take the liberty of making some guesses about Kanye, it’s that he feels deeply. The arenas that he fills with people have so much energy in them and if he does feel deeply, he is at risk for adopting those energies as his own without the proper preparation before standing in his spotlight. I know from experience of being in much smaller rooms for events that I’ve had to go home and rest for a day or two after exposing myself to that much energy. I’m not concerned about his hospitalization because it seems like a pretty natural kind of thing.
What is concerning to me is there are very smart people on Twitter, people who I regard as personal life-changers for me, who are calling Kanye manic. Others are speculating that he’s on a cocaine binge. There is declaration that this is all the rantings of a manic-ridden man who’s off his meds – NOT a creative genius (by the way, this is also binary thinking: one or the other, mutually exclusive of each other, finite possibilities, when both things or many other things can be simultaneously true).
What is really alarming to me is not the idea that he’s on a mania-driven Twitter rampage. Aren’t we all? It’s the idea that someone talking about love being a strong force in the world and refusing to comply with the ideological comfort zone of his peers and colleagues opens up immediate speculation of his mental health. Even if he is experiencing mania, I think he’s showing a really good example to people of what it means to step out of the bounds of sanctioned ideology and stay with the part of you that sees the world in only the way that he can. That inner child that hasn’t yet been silenced by a fearful adult. Because we all have that. We have a model of the world that is just as unique as our fingerprints and when we silence the voice that allows that model to make its own impact, something in us dies and you never know who out there in the world needs that thing that only you can bring.
Think about a song that changed your life. Or a book. The only way that it could have shook you to your core is if the artist was brave enough to share their singular point of view with the world. And for anyone who wants to crucify the visionaries of our time who can bring that to the next generation, that’s just as, if not more, concerning than mental illness. It’s an illness of the systemic consciousness, designed to keep people and possibilities small. And I’m not signing up for that program.
Thank you for reading. Mad love. Leave your comments below and be sure to share this post with your network.
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