That precarious position: Soft, vulnerable dreams in a world of predators


The above photo my wife took is of a discarded cicada larva skin- these cicadas spend between 13-17 YEARS underground in their larval stage- then emerge from holes in the ground to climb up a tree or other tall structure in hopes of emerging out of their skin and flying away as adults-

Here's a nice mini documentary on the cicada life cycle

In that documentary there are billions of cicadas emerging- but I live in the city so there are very few- the city I live in used to consist of orchards and fields now its all paved over and made up of condo's and business parks-

So I can imagine cicada's going underground in a field only to try to emerge 17 years later to find concrete they cannot dig through- they'll desperately try to find a way out but their not equipped to dig through concrete so they'd hatch underground and die with no open sky to fly through-

When they emerge from the ground they are vulnerable to predators- in my yard I've found 10-15 wasps tearing them to pieces after they emerged- so their helpless until their able to fly- before they can fly they need to emerge from their skins- when they do they are soft bodied and even more vulnerable than they are in their larval stage above ground-

They have to emerge out of their larval skin- and then wait for their wings to expand and for their body to dry- in that time again, they are totally vulnerable-

Which is why I though the above photo was so awesome- so this cicada survived all that AND it had clung to a dead flower that was hanging by threads- if it had fallen it would be certain death with all the wasps swarming below- but it's wings expanded and it flew away-

That cicada was in an extremely precarious position as it followed its instincts but somehow it still made it- it could have been eaten by a bird as it flew away but still- it was able to fly-

Insects can only do what their instincts tell them to do- the cicada's instincts tell them when to emerge from the ground- and even if is paved over by concrete they still try-

I've always been an insect/nature enthusiast and as I've learned and observed what it means to be an artist- a person that serves the muse or their creative instincts-

I can't help but see some parallels between these cicadas and what its like trying to survive being an artist and/or following your true creative path in this world- because most of the time you'll probably find yourself in some very precarious positions-

Barely making it- Now knowing how you are going to survive- not having a "plan" for your life- all alone with no one to help you- hazards everywhere you look- dead bodies(defeated artists) everywhere- doom just around the corner-

Artists follow their instincts- they do what they do no matter the circumstances- most fall victim to predators and the dangerous world- and even though there are dead bodies everywhere they still try-

There's a river I ride my bike past when I go to Trader Joe's- I watched the same cycle happen several times- tons of plants and vegetation starts to grow- animals appear and start to thrive THEN the city bulldozes the whole thing and kills everything in fear of floods or some shit-

EVERY TIME nature comes back and tries again- it doesn't give up- it doesn't stop- it tries to survive and thrive anywhere and any way it can-

Look at the grass trying to grow in the cracks in the sidewalk- I find it inspiring- it doesn't have proper soil- it gets stomped on all day- no one comes by to water it- BUT STILL it TRIES TO LIVE

THIS is how you survive as an artist in an unfriendly world- you survive and try to thrive anyway and any where you can- YES it would be nice to have proper fertilized soil, protection from predators, to be watered every day- but even if you have NONE of those- be like nature and do your best no matter the situation-

If that grass growing in the sidewalk gets stomped on 1000 times in a day it doesn't quit and die- it tries and tries to survive- so why do you quit?

When a cicada emerges from the hole in the ground it dug and sees all the scary predators buzzing about waiting to sting it to death and tear it too pieces it doesn't go "OH NO THIS IS SCARY" and stay in its hole- NO- it rushes out to try and spread its wings- so why are you hiding in your hole?

I used to raise dragonfly nymphs when I was a kid- dragonfly nymphs are the larval stage of dragonflies and they live under water- they take a few months to mature- in that time I had to catch food to feed them and clean their tank periodically- then when they were ready to become adults they climb up a plant stem out of the water and much like the cicada emerge from their skins as adults and fly away-

The first dragonfly nymph I raised had gone through this process- I took the adult out in the yard to set it free- I opened the tank and it flew away- it had probably gotten about 30 feet from me when a bird swooped over and ate it- I was stunned and saddened- "how could this happen?!" I thought- it didn't seem fair to my 10 year old mind- but this is a common occurrence in nature- there is no "fairness"

The odds may be stacked against a particular animal to survive- but they no not of odds- they DO WHAT THEY WERE BORN TO DO- and they keep trying to do that until their bodies are completely destroyed- even when they are being eaten by a predator they struggle for survival-

So if you know what you were born to do- why do you give up so easily? Why not be inspired by the natural world and fight for your artistic survival until you are completely destroyed?

If you start writing that novel you've always wanted to write are you in danger of a bear ripping your stomach open and eating your guts while you type away on your laptop?

If you sit down at your computer to record that song you always wanted to sing- will elephants be stepping on you at random times as you do so?

We've all felt defeated at times- we've all been hurt and felt pain- we are all scared at times-

BUT as long as we are alive why not scratch and crawl to do whatever we have to do to realize our creative dreams for as long as we can?

YOU were put here to do SOMETHING- once you find out what it is- that is why you are alive- IF you are not doing it YOU ARE NOT ALIVE

A lion lives to hunt the plains, defend its pride and reproduce- its a dangerous life but thats what it was BORN to do- a lion inside of a cage is "safer" than it was on the plains BUT its not allowed to LIVE as it should LIVE- an animal in a cage seems "safer" to us but that animal is tortured- it is dead inside.

If you give up your dreams in exchange for a "safe" life you will find yourself in the same position as that animal in that cage- you will be "safer" but you'll die inside- you will live your life inside of a cage and as your life comes to an end you'll be forced to make that realization-

So that precarious position that the cicada in the photo at the top of this post is normal for the wild, living artist- if you find yourself in that position just know that many before you were in that exact same position- some made it- some didn't BUT all you can do is fight for your life- for as long and as hard as you can-

Just like these insects- on your way to becoming a strong artist than can defend itself from predators and the environment you have to go through a molting phase like the cicada- its a stage in which to get from larva to adult you must be this soft vulnerable creature- thats the most difficult time- thats when attacks will hurt the most BUT just know if you don't give up- if you're able to survive your shell will harden in time and those attacks will no longer hurt you- BUT you have to go through that phase to get there-

You have to put yourself in harms way- you have to venture out and expose yourself- you have to leave some of the safety to get there-

There's not many cicada's emerging where I'm from- theres not many living artists either-

When I hear a cicada singing it inspires me as I think- well at least one of them made it- and every time I see a living artist full of life chasing their dreams it makes me think the same thing.

So be like that grass struggling to grow amongst the cracks in the sidewalks- fight for your artistic survival because I and many other people would like to hear your song.

Thats me "M dot Strange" in front an art exhibit for my 2007 film "We Are The Strange"- I'm holding the book "Story" by Robert Mckee- always work to add new weapons to defend yourself ^_^




Comments

  1. Wonderful essay. Thanks for making my life better.

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  2. Hey M dot Strange!, Thanks a lot for sharing this motivational stuff. You help me a lot to find myself as an artist!. This post make me think about life, and helps me a lot, I really appreciate it bro!.

    Right now I am making an animated short film and I want to tell you that you are helping me very much in this process (instead of drinking a bottle of wine; I put your forever alone filmmaking podcast when I feel that I can't finish my short film, and after a few moment of hearing it I feel like I can do whatever I want! It's magical! haha).

    Regards!

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  3. Great stuff! I'm halfway through McKee's story myself.

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  4. Soaking up this motivation. Thanks M.
    I have finally busted out of the dirt but I still have a lot more climbing to do before I can spread my hopefully non-deformed wings.

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