Today I went to London to spend some time celebrating the project RethinkYourMind and all the people who had contributed to the creation of The Yellow Book and 4 singles.
I went without really knowing what to expect; what kind of people would be there, what kind of atmosphere and attitudes there might be. I was pleasantly surprised by the speeches and I walked away feeling quite encouraged. There was no romanticising of mental health struggles yet there was very little talk of illness and much talk of hope, the individual journey and individual needs, of support, of possibilities, of de-stigmatising, of creativity and expression and of working together.
I left thinking of two things; the power of celebrations and the potential of arts.
Even though I didn’t know anyone there and I felt nervous and uncertain I was quickly engulfed in a sense of community. I thought about how nourishing it can be to get together to celebrate something we care about – not just to give credit to individuals but really feeling what we are able to do together. Not only to reassure and give recognition which can be nice but too often evaporates quickly; no, I am thinking more of a sense of collectively creating a pool of energy from which we can draw strength.
I think we have lost some depth in how we celebrate in our modern busy lives. The traditional celebrations like birthdays, Christmas and similar special holidays have become commercial adventures or just time off work. There is something to be said for ceremony and rituals – structures that reminds us that what we are doing is special and sacred. And telling stories and sharing visions and dreams can help us connect more deeply with each other.
It was a brief event and it would have been lovely to head to a pub to continue conversations that had begun and connect more with people who were there.
I would also have loved for there to be more time to hear the music that has been created by this project, maybe an exhibition to create more shared experiences with the amazing artwork that is in the book.
But even in its briefness this event seemed more meaningful to me than many other events I have participated in. It seemed full of beautiful possibilities. I was inspired by the bringing together of so many different people from very different walks of life.
It seemed to me that we were a very diverse group of people and I am a big fan of diversity. It creates uncomfortable tensions but also possibilities for learning new things and finding new understandings. But most of all I think diversity is essential for creativity. Creativity doesn’t discriminate – we can all be creative. And it is often in the tensions between known and unknown, between joy and pain, that I feel inspired. I create when I am trying to grasp something that is still incomprehensible to me, when I try and express things that are on the edge.
So the second thing I was thinking of was how art and creativity has the potential to build bridges and can offer shared understandings where words of the rational mind fall short.
I think that much stigma and fear around mental distress could be transfigured with and through arts – because arts has always managed to go to the spaces where madness lives. Like madness, art is connected to the irrational, the emotional, the other-worldly, the spiritual, the natural, the collective subconsciousness, the innovative, the unusual and the extraordinary. In the arts madness is celebrated and explored – and some even see it as necessary for the process of creating. Art can offer meaning where madness has caused havoc. Art can offer safe ways of expressing the seemingly inexpressible. Art can cross the gaps created by our differences because it helps us find what we have in common and connect us in our shared humanness.
I just want to finish these reflections by giving thanks to the people who put work and effort into this project. I think The Yellow Book is lovely, inspiring and useful.