The Art of Letting Go

Brilliant singer/songwriter James Radcliffe posted a somewhat controversial view on the allegedly insidious “War on Piracy” that music labels and other artists seem to be perpetuating.  As Radcliffe points out in his eloquent and spot-on post:

“That whole ‘Piracy is stealing’ thing is bullshit.”

He goes on to say:

“Now, for all of you lovely, law abiding folk out there in internet land, reading this and being like: ‘I would NEVER steal music, for that is WRONG’, I would ask you…Have you ever lent anyone a book?  Or a DVD?  Have you ever burnt a CD for someone?  Or (if you are old enough to remember) made a mixtape?”

The only people crying “FOUL!” over the non-issue of piracy are the corporations who already rip off artists, consumers and other creative folk, and keep their ill-gained booty all to themselves.  They fear, perhaps falsely, that pirating anything is akin to stealing from their coffers.  Radcliffe puts it in much better terms:

“…it’s actually closer to sharing.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Radcliffe’s post.

As children, we’re taught that sharing is a good thing, and we often got into trouble for being stingy or greedy.  At least in the schools I attended, this was true.  So why does that change once we become adults?  Are we lessening somehow the work of those artists whom we share?  I say no.  We’re actually marketing for them in a way that ad agencies only wish they could do.  When I read an awesome book, I can’t wait to share it with others.  I have loaned hundreds of books from my own library just for that reason.  When I hear an amazing new recording, my first instinct is to remix it, for great music inspires us to be creative in kind.

My thoughts on the subject are that [we] cannot become too attached to our own creations, for then they become disproportionately important to us, and we cannot see our way to letting them go. Having a healthy view of our own work — that it truly does not belong to us but to the creative universe — helps us to grow increasingly more creative and prolific. The reward comes in the release.

As a writer, I know that words are just that.  Perhaps I put them together in a way that no one before me has in the history of writing, and in that way I create a story that’s beautiful, stirring, elegant, and inspires others to want to write, or to read, or to share it with everyone they know.

Once I release it into the world, does it belong to me?  No, it belongs to everyone.  Yes, I would like to get paid for its release, as that allows me to continue to create other works rather than forcing me to work a 9 to 5 job in some soul-numbing office, squeezing writing into the odd hours when I have time.  Payment gives me the freedom to further create.  And that’s my goal.  Not to grow wealthy off my work.  That will come (or not) because I’m passionate about what I’m doing, not because I allow others to convince me that piracy is a real issue and I must agree in order to be successful.  That’s not what success means to me.

Our success depends on the time and energy we put into our labors of love.  Artificially creating a negative thought process around the sharing of great work is disingenuous at best, and ludicrous at worst.

Radcliffe goes on to say in his post:

“I espouse free sharing of music because I believe it’s vital and good, and I believe that it allows the permeation of good music and art into our culture, which ultimately benefits everyone.”

There are numerous other creatives who agree.  And those are the people we admire most when they release an album free of charge on their own websites, or create a “name your price” environment, which further fosters goodwill among those who enjoy their work.

While corporate muckety-mucks would have us believing that we’re robbing them of food for their family if we “illegally” share even one moment of a song or poem or novel with someone else, we know better.  The only people benefiting from having the world believe that “piracy is stealing” are those already stealing.  In other words, they don’t want the competition.  But to rethink the idea that piracy is instead healthy sharing, we do rob them of any self-professed authority they have provided themselves.

There is a word I recently learned:

Meraki (n.): the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.  

When we create, we embody meraki.  No one can “own” it.  No one can buy it.  It is ephemeral, yet beautiful.  Meraki is what inspires others, not money.  To me, meraki is like the idea of our soul.  We embody it, but once we move on, once we’re released from the bonds of our humanity, our body no longer holds any essence of the soul that once dwelled within.  So in effect, our creative spirit is the same.  We allow it to dwell within for as long as it takes to set free the thing we’re creating.  Once it’s free, it belongs to the universe.  Clinging too tightly to our work corrupts the positive energy that we infuse it with, and it becomes something much different.  So when we worry ourselves about making money off something that does not truly belong to us, we bastardize our own creativity.  That’s like saying that we “own” the wind.  Or the seas.  We own nothing.  We simply borrow them, and if we’re grateful, share them with the world.

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