This is the first of a three-part series about where I’m going with my life and work.
When I was around 10 years old, I got interested in drawing. Although my parents had divorced and my father had custody, I still saw my mother at times. She was delighted with my newfound interest in art.
My father didn’t think much of the idea, but my mother got a full-time artist — one of her old college friends — to come to our house in Anniston, Ala., and talk with me about how I could develop my skills. Nothing came of that and I barely thought of it for years.
I’ve been thinking lately that this was one of the first skirmishes in an inner war — one that has been both intellectual and spiritual — that’s gone on inside me ever since I was a child. My parents represented very different approaches to intellect and life and philosophy.
Neither approach is wrong or evil. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Part of me is ruled by one and another part is ruled by the other. They’re both essential parts of me.
But for most of my life, I’ve followed my father’s rational and factual approach. It was about making direct arguments and seeing the world in concrete and practical terms. My mother’s approach was more artistic and abstract. Even mystical. It was about intuition and following what felt right.
It’s easier to make it in the world if you’re able to live by my father’s rules. But I’m slowly concluding that this pragmatic approach will never work for me. I’ve admitted this before. Several times. But I keep getting scared of the alternative.
I’m terrified to say this, but I fear that I’ll never have any peace until I follow my mother’s more intuitive and abstract path — right over the artistic cliff into the world of creation.