The monkeys of yesteryear


Whose voice does your monkey channel?

Remember Linda Blair in The Exorcist? Β The devil in her spoke to the priest in his mother’s voice, freaking him the hell out. Who is your demon quoting? Maybe it was the first art teacher who said something casual and cruel: “Remember, most people don’t have talent. I’m sure you’re good at something.” Was it your mother who you overheard telling your dad, “He wants me to pay for that painting class. I gotta break it to him, it’s an utter waste of money.” Was it the dean of the art school who rejected your application? The boss who killed all of your favorite ideas? An article about the percentage of art school grads who now work at Starbucks?

For all too many of us, the monkeys of the past are victimizing us, holding us back. Your shrink will tell you that we just have to realize that those monkey ghosts are only alive become we resuscitate them. You can defeat the specters by making stuff, by asserting your talent, by ignoring the grey-bearded monkey ghosts rehashing childhood bullshit. Want to relive an ancient drama? Read Hamlet.

Tell yourself this and believe it: whatever voice you’re hearing, it’s just a spectre. Whatever sword carved the scars into your psyche, you have the power to move past it. As grownups, we have the ability to see that the affronts and critiques of the past are just puffs of air that have long since dissipated. Only we carry them forward, re-recording them in the deepest wrinkles of the brain, keeping them alive year after year. 78 to 45 to cassette to CD to MP3. Same old song.

Every cell in your body is replaced every seven years. Β You are a completely new being from cerebellum to big toe nails. You have the power to override the rewrite, to define these ancient wounds as irrelevancies that do not bear on the wonderful creature you are today, an emerging artist with great strength and potential.

You can prove your legacy wrong. Oh, your father wanted to go to art school but wasn’t supported by your grandfather and had to become an accountant so he spent your childhood channeling his pain into squashing you? To hell with that. Whatever happened before Watergate has a statute of limitations and should not crush the dreams you had last night. (That’s a little-known federal law).

Time for a fresh start that’s bright and creative.

What disappointments and harsh words are you reliving whenever you think of making art? How can we help you get past them?