A friend from the Island* posted a photo of the Manifesto 'Create Dangerously' by Albert Camus - and it made my heart sing. I have to read that, I thought to myself; and in the synchronicity that arises when you follow your purpose, I ran into this friend at the beach, and she gave me thee directly. While I could hardly believe how easy and immediate it all was, I also knew : this book was here to help me make sense of something on my path - how to create, meaningfully.
Camus's speech was targeted at a post war Europe, where he challenged artists to stop making 'Art for Art's Sake'. The Artist has a responsibility, not to create in abstraction or in distance, but rather to keep their art as close to reality as possible, to unite society around a common theme or understanding. It is the responsibility of the Artist to rally a society that is weary and indifferent, and in so doing, to give meaning to a shared experience. I took this to also read : stop consuming, and start creating.
"On every day, at every moment, for thousands of years, BEAUTY, has consoled millions on people in their servitude and sometimes - even freed some of them forever." - Camus, Create Dangerously
Coming out of post war France, Camus reminds us that our freedom is a gift and that it is not to be taken lightly. The other side of freedom is responsibility - we should use the gift of freedom to not only create things of beauty, but things of truth, because it is truth that creates a shared understanding of things, that keeps us free.
"To speak of what everyone knows and the reality that is common to us all. The Sea, The Rain, Our Needs & Desires. The Struggle Against Death. These are the things that unite us." - Camus, Create Dangerously
The artist is not above politics, they are not above society - they must also make an opinion, stand for something and be part of the constant discussion that creates reality. This manifesto resonated with me, reminded me of my intellectual laziness, my halfhearted efforts at living according to my values and the lukewarm excuses I had been feeding myself. In my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn't creating to my highest potential.
I read this manifesto, on a warm Sunday during the spring 2020 Corona Lockdown in Germany. The uncertainty, the fear, the feeling of standing on the edge of something unknown, gave the right backdrop to this message. Corona was a common, global experience - something that united us all. It was a fear-inducing, freedom-removing, uncertainty that resembled war for our generation. Something that would confront everyone in their lives, and force both a global and personal reckoning.
What things matter to us? What do we choose to stand for? Now that many of our previously taken-for-granted freedoms were gone - what would we fight to get back? What would we do differently?
I had just recently finished a panel discussion for Deloitte Digital, where I was invited to share my thoughts on what Corona meant for our society. What we would do differently was a question I'd already prepared for and it resonated with me. In April 2020, I was sure that Corona would bring us - as a society - back to the values that really matter. We would stop amusing ourselves to sleep, stop flying around the world for the weekend. We would gain - time with family, loved ones. Cooking would become more back to the roots, more sustainable with everyone cooking from what they stored in their pantries. Fast fashion would slow down - a lot. Who cares what you wear, when you don't leave the house? Maybe more people would even go back to making their own clothes. This was something that I could definitely get behind with my longtime value of slow and sustainable fashion.
It was all these things, it was also about what we did now as a society - this mattered. This was still before the time, that any health or government body had put out recommendations on wearing masks. I saw myself and my company Makerist as uniquely well positioned to champion this cause.
After years of selling sewing patterns, I saw a higher purpose for our company and our community - sewists could support where industry lagged : we would connect willing sewists and donations of masks to people and institutions who needed them. Just like a classic war effort, women sewing at home, would save the day. The question of what I was here to create, was answered.
I set up my sewing machine on the kitchen table and sewed masks by night, hundreds of them. For our donations project, for our team, for my family, for our friends. Because I really cared - about these people, about the higher good, about the environment, and knew that handmade masks showed this value. By day, I continued to lead my teams over video, often privately making crafting videos on the side. I felt confident, even cocky - I could do it all.
I was sure that my years of starting up a business with two small kids on my hands, had prepared me for working from home, from parenting from home, from serving from home, from schooling from home. It had not. This was perhaps the common experience I can share with the world, but that is a different story ...
*Valentinswerder, on Lake Tegel in Berlin, Germany
-#coronaparents - or, who pays the price of homeschooling?
- Resilience - and why is matters