The Dharma of Patti Smith
“We give up aggression, both toward ourselves, that we have to make a special effort to impress people, and toward others, that we can put something over on them.” from the Dharma Art Letter, by Chogyam Trungpa
Last month, many of us saw and were deeply moved by Patti Smith’s singular performance at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm. We were touched by her transparency and humility as a performer as she faltered in her delivery of Dylan’s lyrics and began again. It was a rare moment in our experience of this powerful artist.
A week later in the New Yorker, she reflected on those moments, “…in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty. Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them. The song asked for nothing. The creator of the song asked for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?”
What Trungpa calls ‘aggression’ in art shows up as over-identifying with our creations; as pressure to meet an invisible standard – to be ‘good’; or forcing the creative process – which has its own autonomous timeline and intelligence.
Many of us are in recovery from this approach to art — a devastating irony of art school can be the loss of delight & ease in our creative expression. Still others among us seek to avoid altogether the mystique and neurosis we associate with artistic endeavor, stripping our world of the free and heartful expression that lives within each of us.
We can begin to think of art as generosity. The motivation to create can simply be to share something, to make an offering, rather than to reinforce the individual artist’s sense of importance.
In Dharma Art, we meet each other as we are, making offerings and practice the role of well-wisher and compassionate witness. The moment brings its own intelligence and blends with the generous spirit of the artist & viewer. We in our human tenderness are good enough, as found.
A Teaspoon of Water engages this generosity within the gracious framework of the Salon. Tickets are available for both performances, and it will be a pleasure to see you there.