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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Arnold

Musicians’ & Artists’ Vital Role in These Turbulent Times

Hello friends!

Here’s another section from my upcoming book, Soulforce Arts: The Vital Role of Musicians & Other Artists In A World That’s Lost Its Mind. It’s from Chapter 1, wherein I address what artists can do to make a difference. Let me know what you think!

If the ideas here speak to you, please join my next “Interbeing for Musicians & Artists” class on Tuesday 9/13 from 12-1:30PM EST. Contact me for more details:

(And the picture above is from a recent hike through Acadia National Park—my happy place!)



Artists Generate Vital “System Updates”

“Without birds, where would we have learned that there can be a song of the heart?”

—Hal Borland

It is well-known that birds call to one another to attract mates, announce their presence in their territory, warn each other of predators, and—it seems to me—to express the sheer joy of being alive. People who grow up in forests, very closely attuned to their environments, speak of a sort of “Wood Wide Web,” a communication network among birds that spans for many miles in all directions, which allows both birds (and humans in-the-know) to know exactly where the nearest hawk or fox is, when the weather might change, and what might be in store over the next hill.

As with all living systems, this system of communication exists in a state of “dynamic equilibrium,” in which there is a continuous hum of activity even in times of relative calm, and which, importantly, has the ability to respond appropriately to certain changes in the environment. In a certain sense, when a particular bird notices something new in the environment, its most important job in that moment is to broadcast a system update to the wider community so that all its members have a better chance of adapting to the new changes.

When there is a small change in the environment, the system update will tend to be relatively small, and vice versa for larger changes. System updates for predators will sound different for those about the coming dusk or dawn. Each bird carries its own unique flavor of system updates, in its own uniquely recognizable voice, and in response to the events it’s most attuned to.

When all the birds are healthy and strong, well-attuned to their environments, and in flowing communication with their community members, this system works exceedingly well to help the birds—and the whole forest that depends on them—thrive. But this finely-tuned system could easily break down if its members become sick, deaf, or blind; the greatest threat to any community of birds isn’t necessarily a specific danger in their environment—it’s a lack of timely, accurate, and appropriate system updates.

I believe that the role of artists in human society is exactly the same as that of the singing birds: to generate and broadcast our unique system updates so that our communities can adapt, survive, and thrive amidst constantly-changing life circumstances. Thus, you are best fulfilling your role as an artist when you are closely attuning yourself to your inner and outer environments, and making your art based on what you discover there. 

Here are some principles that can guide how you think about and develop your own system updates:

System Updates Can Be Explicit or Implicit. A system update can take almost any form, which might be explicit (i.e., a particular work or set of works) or implicit (i.e., in an energy or emotion that the work carries). For example, just as we discovered above, your art needn’t look climate-related in order to address the root cause of the climate crisis. Rather, if it is made from a place of interbeing, it will carry the “energy” of interbeing in ways that might be difficult to name, but which are potent nonetheless.

Attention Feeds Your System Updates. Whatever you pay attention to in your life informs the quality and content of your system updates. The quality of what you most pay attention to will tend to seep into your system updates, and likewise, the quality of your attention itself will inform the quality of your system updates. Thus, it is wise to train your mind so that you have more agency over to what and how you pay attention in your life and work.

Transformation via Outer Attunement. Recalling the definition of sanity above, one of the most important areas of continued development for yourself as a Soulforce Artist is to pay attention to the world around you and to let the information you find there (again, in the broadest sense of the word) transform who you are, so that it can be broadcast in your system updates. This doesn’t mean forcing yourself to constantly read news of all the worst events in the world, because that might leave out more positive events which are nonetheless true. Rather, allow each twinge of your heart, and moment of joy, to sink in and touch the core of your being, and then make art from the fullness of who’ve you become.

Transformation via Inner Attunement. Just as with outer attunement, your greatest development as an artist (and as a person, in general) also involves attuning to your inner world and letting that which you have previously ignored come to light so that it, too, can enrich and inform your system updates. Traumatic events—big or small—involve some part of yourself becoming locked away, so that its gifts can no longer be felt in your life and work. Healing these wounds retrieves these gifts and the information these parts uniquely carry so that your audiences can enjoy the full gift of who you are via your system updates.

From this perspective, some of the best ways to make art that touches the root cause of the climate crisis are to pay attention to examples of that root cause in the world around you, to go deep into Nature and let her energy pervade your being, and to be unafraid to let yourself feel any pain you might feel at what you find. Let yourself be broken open by the beauty of Nature. Let the pain of each loss of a forest or species to be an invitation to step into something new, a more beautiful way of being. The transformation you will undergo during this process will be what produces the kinds of system updates in your art that will awaken your audiences to what is theirs to do in reversing the climate crisis.

The Soulforce Arts Approach involves taking ownership of your system updates, developing them so that your music or other forms of art can serve as crucial resources for the communities your art reaches. Using the ideas and practices in this book, you can develop your system updates to the point where every expressive act is imbued with Soulforce, which carries a transformative power and significance that may currently be beyond your wildest imaginings.

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