We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage us to be creative unless it looks like we are going to strike it big with a commercial hit. Creativity, like so much else in our world, has been co-opted into consumerism and its worth calculated by how much money it generates. It is only recently that the word ‘amateur’ became a dirty one. Until the 1980’s, just about every educated person no matter what his or her profession played an instrument, or painted, or wrote for pleasure. The aim of these hobbies wasn’t necessarily to become the next Beethoven but to deepen the sensibilities of the individual doing them. The Victorian art critic John Ruskin, when asked why he was teaching factory workers to draw, said “I’m not teaching them to draw, I’m teaching them to see.” I would venture to say that enhanced seeing and feeling are the real reasons to create, whether it is be a garden, a haiku, or a brand new thought.
The word ‘amateur’–from the Latin ‘amator’ or lover–means to create for the sheer love of it. I propose that we bring back amateurism with a vengeance. Weekend painters, closet writers, doctors who are poets, dancers who are CPAs! Some of our greatest scientists, thinkers, and artists have been amateurs. Charles Darwin was an amateur naturalist, Johannes Kepler supported his astronomical investigations by being a court astrologer, Wallace Stevens had a day job in a bank, and the idea of being a professional poet never crossed Emily Dickinson’s mind.
Taken from “The Gift of the Ameteur”
by Shelley Berc
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