there’s an aa meeting i attend most mornings where a small group, split between los angeles & the uk, signs on to share based on a reading presented by whoever has that week’s commitment to lead. i share this only to cite where i got this quote from today—

…when I neglect that which is eternal within me, I detach from the authentic source of my strength… In a state of spiritual poverty, we will be seduced by whatever it is that can make us insensate to our dread. That, ultimately, is the origin of the addiction process, since the very essence of the process is the drive to take in from the outside that which properly arises from within.

—Gabor Mate

i was drawing from a young age & art was always a part of my life. though in my 20s i came to understand it as part of my soul, i never associated art with spirituality. i’d been to church as a kid & while there were plenty of messages about the potential of god’s world, most of them put jesus at the top of that list. talent was ‘god-given,’ and i didn’t want the fact i knew how to draw to feel like being in some kind of existential debt for the rest of my life.

i did treat art as some treat prayer, though—something i returned to in times of stress or despair. whatever negative was in my life, i could translate into art & somehow come out net-positive. i didn’t define that as a spiritual wealth because religion, ironically, had turned me off from the idea of spirituality as a concept. looking back, though, i can see what it was.

between then & now, though, were all the choices that got me here. it began with art school, where a majority of the curriculum was built around the profit-motive & employment potential of the creative field. few-to-no teachers ever mentioned the idea of art or creativity coming from a sense of self—most talks on theory were ignored in favor of rhetoric based in the competitive nature of capitalism. i got more hand-outs about the percentage of ‘good jobs’ in certain design fields than i did readings on theory—it was admittedly my fault for majoring in graphic design, but that was based in the fear that there would be no way to survive under capitalism otherwise.

it was no wonder i found myself losing my creativity to my alcoholism by the end of college. i’d been taught at all levels that the spiritual wealth i had for as long as i can remember was only worth what i could translate it to in monetary value. if capitalism was the inescapable fate of any inspiration i could muster than what was the point of being inspired? to have the a piece of the soul end up as a sales pitch or a product label seems like a fate worse than death, for at least death is natural.

& for ‘the art world’ itself, the desire to compete within capitalism’s most beautiful racket feels like betraying the very idea of art. capitalism is the antithesis of art: it doesn’t mind creativity so long as that creation is, or serves, a market. (this is sort of like organized religion that doesn’t mind prayer so long as it’s directed at a certain god.)

so we arrive at spiritual poverty. i drank my way to this point because at every point in my life there was a system that demanded ownership of my creativity—my soul. be it by the idea i was in a spiritual debt to begin with or that my talent was worthless without the validation of a market or a pyramid scheme, this is what life in the united states is to the artist—war. war over our ideas, our selves, our souls. the united states is the result of an evil system built upon a history of sin, so of course honesty, creativity, and spirit are incongruent by nature. of course i nearly drank myself to death living in this country.

back to the present. i found myself in an aa meeting talking & thinking about this today, wondering how many others have just been torn down to nothing because of this shit-hole of a country, this godforsaken place. there is no such thing as ‘american art,’ only americans whose art has been consumed by a machine while they, the artists, struggle to not follow suit.