I was going to post a normal blog today—something about creative activities suited to the end-of-school-year days—but when the time came, it didn’t feel right. Today, in the U.S., it is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember the men and women who died in service to their country. It brought back the aching sadness I have experienced visiting battle cemeteries and contemplating the youth and loss they represent.
Apparently today there was a kerfluffle over a pre-Memorial Day tweet by our vice president, suggesting that we enjoy the long holiday weekend. Of course, that was not all she said about Memorial Day and I should not be surprised by our current national tendency to jump at any opportunity to condemn a political opponent. But when I thought about it, it seems obvious we should do both. We should mourn losses and do all in our power to avoid future loss. But we should also, gratefully, find joy. How can we imagine that those we lost would want anything else? Can you imagine a beloved deceased parent or grandparent wanting anything but joy for those they left behind? I can’t. Those hot dog-filled holiday picnics are part of the country they promised to protect.
What does that have to do with creativity? Just this. Each lost life represents creativity cut short–music unwritten, science unexplored, art and literature we’ll never enjoy. It seems to me part of our response to that loss is to take up our own opportunities with thankfulness and gusto. Don’t let perfectionism keep you from writing. Don’t let concern over the mess get in the way of your art. And if you long for days in a lab and others say such places aren’t for you, ignore them. Creativity takes courage. When you find yours foundering, remember those who sacrificed their opportunities for creativity so you could live to find yours. What better way to honor them that to take the gifts we’ve been given and use them to the fullest. So today, U.S. readers, remember those we’ve lost. Work to preserve the country they fought for and the peace they died seeking. But also, find the joy they’d want for those who follow, and use the example of their courage to push you toward being your fullest, most creative self. That’s a holiday celebration I’d like to see.