Playing With Integrity: The Artist's Search for Truth.
What is truth? It is a question that belies the pursuit of every artist, beyond the initial infatuation with their instrument and capability and the dismantling of the romantic narrative shrouding the purpose of their gift. Truth is a highly valued commodity—an eternal source of salvation and security that endures, providing hope and immunity against the day-to-day ugliness and deceptive messages of the world. From the very moment an artist comes into alignment with their calling, it initiates a call and response towards the discovery and realization of life’s truths, as well as their own self-discovery and the defining factors that have shaped their circumstances. In the process of answering the creative call, the veracity and strength of interpersonal relationships become exposed, as well as the relationship with self, through the choices made to maintain the integrity of that call.
The search for truth at the heart of the creative process yields a centering that rudders through the ebb and flow of the marketplace—a protection against the destructive anxiety of career drought and the apathy of wealth and fame. Over time, with consistent cultivation, our talents and gifts sharpen in our pursuit of the truth, weaponizing them as effective tools of combat against doubt, fear, suspicion, loneliness, and chaos—providing a final answer to the world based in love.
Within scripture, the search for truth was also highlighted during Christ’s trial, under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. In response to the false accusations of blasphemy made against him, Christ was confronted with questions regarding his identity, from which Christ responded in kind with a statement of his ultimate purpose for mankind: to speak of the truth. The revelation of Christ’s purpose and the truth of his purpose killed the remaining doubt of his integrity. With that final statement, Pilate had nowhere else to venture in acquiescing the condemnation demanded by Christ’s accusers. Pilate could only offer one response: “What is truth?” Truth was the end to the debate. Truth realized the light of Christ's love and the power of his peace amidst injustice.
Truth in creativity can be achieved through a life of artistic integrity, marked by daily discipline, creative authenticity, and personal accountability. Playing with integrity, instead of playing for acceptance, ensures a pathway towards relevance and evolution. In addition to the consistency of adhering to daily disciplines, playing with integrity also involves the act of being present in the expression of your gift versus “phoning it in”. It is a lifestyle of creativity that discourages against a reliance on technicality and pandering, that requires stamina, confidence, imagination, active engagement, self-awareness and patience.
During a 1955 interview with August Blume, co-founder of the Interracial Jazz Society, jazz master and saxophonist, John Coltrane shared his thoughts on the musician’s search for truth realized through a life of integrity:
(Coltrane): “Yeah, well… I think the majority of musicians are interested in truth, you know—they, well they’ve got to be because a thing, a musical thing, is a truth. If you play and make a statement, a musical statement, and it’s a valid statement, that’s a truth right there in itself, you know. If you play something phony, well, you know that’s phony—and all musicians are striving to get as near perfection as they can get. That’s truth there, you know. So in order to play those kind of things, to play truth, you’ve got to live with as much truth as you possibly can, you know. And as far as (being) religious, if a guy is religious, then I think he’s searching for good, he wants to live a good life. He might call it religious or he might not call himself religious. Maybe he’d say, ‘I just live a good life.’ But a religious man would call him, he’d say ‘Well that man is a religious man—he lives a good life.’ So quite a few musicians think about it; I’ve talked with quite a few of them about it.”
As creators, we are collectively working towards discovering a truth that we can share: The truth of beauty. The truth found through transparency. The truth and hope of salvation. The truth of kindness. A truth that produces an abundance of goodness and serves as a light within the spirits of those we serve. The search for that truth is accomplished in part by playing with integrity.