The Sleeper Has Awakened

Brian GriffithsArt inspiration20 Comments

“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

Frank Herbert, from the classic science-fiction novel, Dune

Sleepwalking through life, I thought I knew what this dream was about, but it’s the worst of nightmares, endless, like a tunnel with a light that keeps advancing the further you walk down it, never getting bigger to open to the fresh sky and the molten sun, but just maddeningly a pinpoint at the furthest reaches of my vision.

A friend once told me his view of hell was one line that lead to another that lead to another, ad infinitum, for eternity. Sound familiar? Is that your life? It’s been mine. Waiting, endless waiting, the future always an advancing frontier of “someday.”

To be me, being an artist isn’t a hobby but is a core part of my being. It was never a phase that could easily be swept aside to do “serious work” as an adult. This society rewards easily those who agree with it: get an education, do something practical, be a plugging success. Then of course you get rewarded with a paycheck, a 401K and your two weeks’ vacation each year. I’ve tried so long to agree.

I’ve really tried. But it’s not for me. Artists by nature disagree with the existing state of affairs: they create new worlds, new perspectives and new thought, and by nature that’s disagreement on a high plane. It’s tough to fit yourself into a square hole when you’re an irregular star-shaped peg. I’ve tried to play it safe because this society too turns its back on those who don’t agree.  The fear of disinterest, abandonment, and ridicule can be powerful.

“Artist” as a label is both a blessing and a curse: if for any second in reading this you’re thinking I’m being an ass and that I just “need a real job” then realize that you’re just forwarding the curse and the reactive tendency of this unthinking behemoth to try to force back into line anyone who might step out of line.

For me, the sleeper has awakened. If you feel the same emotions tug at your heart, the same stirrings in your soul, crushed by a tyranny of compliance, slit your eyes in the breaking dawn. The light may dazzle and confuse you at first. But if you’re like me, you may never feel happy in the deepest, most fulfilling sense unless you’re creating new worlds. A small voice, deep inside, may still whisper,

“The sleeper must awaken.”

20 Comments on “The Sleeper Has Awakened”

    1. Thanks, Ros! And when your article on me gets posted, I’m definitely going to repost it here.

  1. As I read this, in my mind’s eye I could see your once-upon-a-time sketches in the margins and on the backs of papers that were on your desk as we discussed whatever literature we were studying. It was apparent that images called to you more than words, but you were adept with the latter as well, as is obvious in your beautifully expressed statement. You have chosen Robert Frost’s “road less traveled,” and I admire your courage to make an unconventional journey and your intelligence at discerning who you are, as well as your determination to be true to that knowledge. I also admire your artistic skills: the piece that you showcase with this statement is beautiful and thought provoking. I wish you much success. As the cliche states, “You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you cannot take the classroom out of the teacher,” and so I give this an “A+,” Brian. All best wishes.

    1. What a lovely thing to say. Now is it possible to retroactively have that grade apply to something to 12 grade English class? I’ve really three great inspirations as subjects – visual art, literature and music. You were definitely instrumental in the literature field in helping to shape my nascent interests.

  2. Great article. I can totally relate to blessing and curse issue! Between undergraduate and graduate, I attended PAFA. It was a very happy time in my life. My therapeutic style is highly influenced by my artistic style!

  3. It is such a blessing on the world to be able to uplift others through art. Being able to effect positive change at a distance from where you are is quite a talent!

    1. It’s actually kinda cool. I’ve had people who were having bad days totally cool out when they view my work.

    1. Thank you, sir on all counts. One has to be true to oneself. I hope this post helps a lot of people.

  4. It feels true, and it is true. More of us need to trust that inner passion to be alive and be and say something new. That’s the important part of being alive!

  5. This was so beautifully written, Brian! It’s a universal message for artists. And may I add that once one has awakened, one must fight off the distractions and produce like crazy to do the divine work that only each of us can do. That’s where I’m at right now.

    1. Thanks – and that’s exactly right. But let me take a step further: That to be fully an artist you need not only to produce work like crazy, at a high quality that people will love it, but you actually, to properly wear the title, have to learn how to MARKET and SELL it.

  6. Very well put man! Said like Charles Bukowski at his finest! Thanks for remembering and referencing my idea of hell!!!

    1. Sure, Joe. It was quite appropriate and memorable enough that I recalled it 15 years later. Thanks so much.

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