Springsteen again, and Chesterton; on breaking out

“You can’t conform to the formula of always giving the audience what it wants, or you’re killing yourself and you’re killing the audience. Because they don’t really want it either. Just because they respond to something doesn’t mean they want it. I think it has come to the point where they respond automatically to the things they think they should respond to. You’ve got to give them more than that. Someone has to take the initiative and say, “Let’s step out of the mold. Let’s try this.” -Bruce Springsteen, quoted in Two Hearts by Dave Marsh

As I read the above this morning, I was reminded of a quote from G.K. Chesterton: “Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.” It’s the refusal to be vulnerable and break out into new ways of thinking and seeing and expressing that leads to the death of insight, creativity, and ultimately sanity. Part of the job of an artist is to help people experience the world with fresh perspective. You’re not there to give people what they think they want per se. You’re there to surprise them, to help them break out, to lead them into reality where they’ve been drawing back. The safe approach of meeting pre-existing taste is not only self-serving (the only reason you’d do it consciously and deliberately is to satisfy your own  for attention), but taken to its extreme, leads to insanity and ultimately kills the things that art exists to preserve and give life to.

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