When I was little, I liked Bobbie Had a Nickel by Frieda Friedman, a picture book that follows Bobbie’s thoughts on what to buy with his five cents. A toy? A bubble pipe? In the end, he chooses a carousel ride rather than a thing. Thus the naturalization of the positive capitalist construct expressed by the assumed empowerment paradigm inherent in material possession is challenged, and, indeed, somewhat overturned. Blimey. The academic’s gotten out. I have asked everyone please to keep that gate closed. Wait a minute…c’mere. C’mere…okay, safely back inside. Anyway. Many artists know all about deciding what to do with the one actual nickel in their pockets, and for the CPT, there is also deciding about the small coin of time you have to spend on your Creativity. I don’t always have/find/make the time I need to unroll the whole red carpet for an idea, or to let what’s sitting in my bowl rise slowly while I wait to roll it out at the exact right moment. (Two metaphors, both using “roll”. Woo.)
I feel the same five-cents-only pinch when I try to make time to experience other people’s Art. Part of me pants to explore new things as I come across them. Another Part of me, the wiser bit, smiles like the Buddha, knowing that it’s necessary to say No. There is nothing wrong, is there, with pursuing a couple of passions in depth while leaving other worthy things alone. Except for how that can feel, of course. But there it really always is: all the Books not read, all the Art not experienced, swarming around us like bees with sharp backsides. We have to limit ourselves. But these limits—call them renunciations when they sting enough— help us honor what choreographer Twyla Tharp calls our “Creative DNA,” that which we truly Are and Need to be Doing in the time we have. Knowing that doesn’t make it easy. Readers and art lovers have FOMO all their own, and it can be raw.
Riding a carousel was meaningful back then. My parents took me to Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island many Sunday afternoons, where I loved to pick my colorful horse and happily go around. OK, sometimes more than one horse…they were all pretty, you know. Naturally I was a Bobbie fan. As I am now a fan of the 18th century, literature, and theater. And poetry, Modernist art, Bohemian style. And good nature writing about the shore and good spiritual writing. And I literally have no time for it all, never mind the rest of the fascinating world. More or less. Sometimes I worry that’s close-minded, my Ego demanding to see itself reflected in the art I engage with. There’s enough truth in that worry to make sure I stretch mindfully and take a spin outside the comfort zone. But at the same time, doesn’t any Creative, especially a CPT, need to acknowledge the bright horse in the mad swirl she recognizes as her own, and, as the song says, ride that painted pony?
I admire people whose passionate pursuits aren’t peppered underfoot with gravelly bits of the roads not taken. I suspect they understand that the Rest of the Art is for someone else to connect with. We love the world together; it only works as a group effort. That’s not a bad thing to realize in trying to spend your nickel well on your own art and other people’s.