The ultra-relevance of art and its power to change and save lives

Art forms and shapes us as humans. It molds our visions of ourselves and the world. The art we expose ourselves to and that which most resonates with us, contributes to our perception of what is possible.

My definition of art here is broad. Anything that’s created as a form of expression, and then consumed and interpreted by others. Movies, music, paintings. Graffiti, performance art, poetry. Used tampons on a canvas, sculptures of historical figures made of feces, and free-style rap battles. Shia LaBeouf.


All of these are art. And they all shape us, whether it be by pulling us in or pushing us away. Even in our indifference towards expression, we are defined by that indifference.

Art tells us who we are, and changes us when it’s compelling and we allow ourselves to flow with it.

Dismissing art’s influence and importance to everyone on Earth is denial of a fundamental facet of existence.

We like to think we choose our own destinies and we have power over how we develop, which sometimes leads us to dismiss what influences and molds us.

Surely, we did it all ourselves. It wasn’t movies and books and teachers and our social interactions that made us this way, some of us insist.

I want to share with you, about how I survived 2016.

It was one of the bleakest years of my life. More than once, I vividly fantasized about jumping off the top of a specific parking garage.

I would not be alive today, if it weren’t for art and the way it has molded my ideals and beliefs.

Throughout the depression I went through last year, I didn’t make the connection about how my deeply-established relationship with art was keeping me alive.

But in retrospect I can see that my beliefs, which have been influenced by the music I’ve consumed and love, directed me forward even when I felt like there was nothing there to lean on at the time.

Today, I was listening to the song “Everything” by VNV Nation, and it hit me:

The message of this song is something I truly believe in. Maybe I believed it before I heard the song, which is why it resonated so deeply with me and why I appreciated it so much. But by listening to it, it reinforced my belief. It steeled my resolve to live through my darkest moments.

It took my abstract hopes and filled them with iron and diamond to withstand life’s most brutal beatings.

Here’s the song, and the lyrics (written by Ronan Harris).

Please visit VNV Nation’s Bandcamp page for access to a library of soul-stirring music.

“Don’t tell me
it’s the end of everything
It always seems the darkest
before the light

So fragile
and breaking apart
Finding solace in the knowledge
of what’s right

All that’s holy
Sacred and divine
Guarding over all
within in its sight

with all of your heart
Give me your body
and your soul

In greatness
Take all in your stride
Lend your courage to the task
To the masses’ hope and pride

Don’t tell me
it’s the end of everything
It always seems the darkest
before the light

You’re changing
and biding your time
All the while you’re praying
you’ll be saved

You’re hiding
your beautiful mind
Unaware of what it means
to embrace it and defend

Don’t tell me
it’s the end of everything
It always seems the darkest before the light”


The message in that song completely describes my experience in 2016, and the song called out to me before I’d even had the experience that allowed me to fully relate to it.

In 2016, throughout my depression, a major reason I was so down and out was because I couldn’t speak my truth anymore, but couldn’t let go of it either.

I was down on my knees, begging to be saved. Pleading for reprieve. Hiding my beautiful mind, unable to embrace and defend my version of the truth that I’m in this world to express.

But deep in my heart, I knew. That everything is always taken care of. That there was a purpose in me being so broken and alienated, and that I’d one day rise up out of the solitude and find my voice.

My faith in that outcome, no matter how shrouded it became when I fantasized of ending my life, was able to survive that holocaust of my soul.

Because of art. Because of that faith being reinforced by Ronan Harris and VNV Nation.

You may find your faith reinforced by just about anything. You might not even like music. I can’t quite relate to that, but I accept you anyway, if that’s the case.

Maybe the only reinforcement you need is from a holy text, like the Bible. That’s great. That’s who you are and what you’re all about.

Not everyone is you, and not everyone is about what you’re about.

Some people are spoken to from sources you might think of as gibberish.

Sometimes people see Jesus in their toast or turds, and it changes their lives.

Some people see cardinals and feel like they are being communicated with by loved ones who have died.

You might think it’s crazy, you might think it’s sane.

No matter what speaks to you personally and helps you understand the world, rest assured: some people think you’re crazy, some people think you’re sane.

We need to stop disregarding other people’s experience, just because we don’t personally relate.

I’m telling you, I’d be dead right now if it weren’t for passionate music that feeds my heart and soul.

So, I’ll put myself out there to defend what feeds other people’s hearts and souls, even if I don’t understand or relate to it.

I’ll do that unconditionally without any demand for reciprocation.

But I humbly ask that anyone reading this please consider taking a stand for other people’s soul food, even if that food doesn’t nourish you personally.

Just consider it. Or don’t. Either way, I’ll fight (peacefully) for you. Whoever you are. Whatever you’re about.

Suppressing art is cutting ourselves off from a flow of vitality that has the powerful potential to change us into everything we’re meant to be.

Defend and support artistic expression in all its forms. It’s a part of us all, one way or another.

Also published on Medium.