As artists we are not immune to the sickness of our broader culture. We can be infected just as easily as any other. Perhaps more easily, because of our deep seated desire to be “relevant.” Even those who fancy themselves opposed to popular culture define themselves at least in part by that opposition, and therefore enter the dialectical dance. This is the weakness that opens the door to the virus which seeks to burrow inside us.
There is a fish in the Gulf of California which is invaded by a very specific parasite. This parasite enters the mouth of the fish, consumes the fish’s tongue, and then takes its place. After that, it skims off a bit of every meal the fish consumes, stealing its food, labor, and a bit of its very identity.
In our desire to be relevant, we allow our tongue to be consumed and our voice stolen. We begin to speak not with our native tongue, but with the tongue of the broader culture. To speak with our own voice requires great courage, discipline and perhaps above all, loneliness. Understandably, few are willing to pay this price.
Every culture, in all times, exhibits signs of both health and illness. It is a pendulum that swings in broad, generational arcs. We are now poised at the extreme, the perfect calm of the Winter. If we are to recapture our own voice, to resist being infected by the sickness of the broader culture, we must have the Courage to be Irrelevant.